Arrival to Argentina/VOX Asociación Civil

Hola todxs,

I am finally in ARGENTINA!!! After a full one and a half day of traveling from Portland to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Houston, Houston to Buenos Aries, and Buenos Aries to Rosario, I made it to VOX Asociación Civil (A.C.).


(Bus station in Buenos Aries, Arg.)

Let me take you all back two days from today, March 20th 2013. I left Monmouth at 6am with no prior sleep in hopes of sleeping during my flight(s). My flight from PDX to LA was 2 hours and went by quick; I actually slept the during the whole flight. LA to Houston was 3.5 hours, but it too was quick. This flight along with my next flight from Houston to Buenos Aries had T.V.s for every seat with access to movies, T.V. shows, music, and games. My flight from Houston to Buenos Aries was the toughest one. I had never been on a flight that was 10 hours!!! I brought a quilt, neck pillow, charged laptop/iPod, book, and had the T.V. movies available for me, however it did not help me much with being in a tight space for such a long period of time. Luckily, I was able to sleep half way through the flight and woke up an hour before landing.


(Somewhere in South America ha!)

Once we landed in Arg. (March 21st), immigration/customs took a good hour or so. After showing my documentations and examination of my belongings, I walk through the sliding doors to a large group of folks yelling taxi’s, omnibus, etc. I had planned prior with VOX A.C. for them to pick me up, but with no phono service or wifi available, I was about to bust a mission and look for Camila & Julio; two individuals whom work with VOX A.C. and are part of Grupos Jovenes. Surprisingly, I was able to find less than 5 minutes after my search. My first reactions were relief and excitement. After traveling for so long, I wanted to finally arrive and see some familiar faces.

At the airport, we went to buy some bus tickets. While waiting in line, I met a young lady from Boston, Lauren, whom was meeting up with her friend in Buenos Aries. She knew very minimal Spanish and asked for both mine and Camila/Julio’s help. After telling Camila/Julio where she was trying to get, she joined us and came along on our mini adventure. We got the tickets, got lost for about 30 minutes, and eventually found the bus and left the airport.


(El omnibus que nos llevo a la capital)

The bus ride to the capital seemed quick, even though it was a 30-45 min. ride. We talked about VOX A.C., shared personal stories, saw lots of high buildings, and we even drove pass La Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). After getting dropped off at one of the bus stations, Camila, Julio, and I made our way to another bus station while Lauren got a taxi and went her way.


(Snapshot while on the bus. Buenos Aries, Arg.)

We walked several blocks to get to the bus station and note, we had all of my belongings. I was a little nervous walking the streets with my stuff because folks had told me prior to arriving to not have valuables visible due to picketers and in general raising your visibility. Thankfully, we quickly made our way through the crowded side walks and busy streets and bought our tickets to Rosario.


(Forgot the name of this park in Buenos Aries, oops!)

Within 30 minutes of purchasing our tickets, we got on the bus and left Buenos Aries which by the way was another 30-45 minutes just to leave the city. During the bus ride, I practice my first “siesta” (nap after lunch) though I am not sure if it truly counts. All three of us slept for a good hour and a half or so. Once awake, I observed the land and thought how much it resembles parts of the midwest; very flat, green/yellow colors, and parts cloudy. Upon arrival to Rosario, I remember seeing the Rosario Casino, a shopping center, lots of old, vintage looking buildings with a little modern twist, folks driving motorcycles, many small cars driving very fast in-between lanes, and people walking as the sun set.

At the bus station, we got a taxi and made our way to Entre Rios, the street where VOX A.C. is located. This was about a 15 min. drive. When we arrived, Guillermo, the President of VOX A.C., along with a few other individuals were waiting and greeted me with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. I am not going to lie, I was very nervous at this point because I finally was here and it truly hit me; I had a surreal moment.

The first night, Julio and César, another member of Grupos Jovenes, stayed with me. One thing that I have been wanting to try was yerba mate and this finally came true! They served the tea in a traditional mate. Yerba mate definitely is a new taste that I am going to have to get use to. It was quite bitter even though sugar was added. Still, I got one thing check off my bucket list while in Argentina.Image

(Yerba mate)

Afterwards, we walked around the city for a bit and went to the grocery store to find food to make back at the office. Ironically, we decided to make a Mexican dish, Pollo ala Crema which is my favorite. We ate, listened and exchanged music, had many conversations ranging from the history of the LGBT community to politics to philosophers to pop culture, etc. Note, I am a “native speaker,” but there were times when I had no idea what they were talking about. I let them know however and they would explain things in another manner and slow down when speaking. Also, Julio knows English which helped a lot. By this time, it was around 1 am, Friday March 22nd. We would be waking up early this day for a presentation VOX A.C. would conduct at 9:30am. After unpacking a few things, taking a necessary shower, updating my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook, I called it a good night and went up to one of the rooms. Thinking that I would be able to fall asleep because I was tired, that did not happen. Argentina is four hours ahead and I was still use to the time zone in Oregon. I laid for about an hour until I fell asleep and eventually woke up at 8am to the busy city of Rosario.


January in Barcelona (1)

The first week in Barcelona was a whirlwind of new friends, places, and foods.

The program staff is fantastic at Barcelona International College (BIC). All are young and bilingual and eager to answer all of common sense questions like how to get around via the metro and where to get a local phone but also give us the scoop on good restaurants and gym memberships. Wednesday they took us on a beautiful hike along one of Barcelona’s 2 mountains (small by NW standards), Tibidado. The weather here is beautiful- nearly always sunny, low 60s during the day. After the hour-long walk, we enjoyed an authentic Spanish lunch that includes calcots (sort of like a sweet onion), pan con tomate (bread brushed with tomato, garlic, salt, & olive oil), lamb, and tiramisu. Most lunches here include 3 courses and one never leaves hungry after! 


 Later that evening, a big group of us caught a FC Barcelona futbol game. Though their opponent, Cordoba, made for an easy Barca win (4-0), experiencing the futbol culture and watching arguably the best team in the world play live was amazing. Hope to catch another one before I leave!
The program also took us on a day trip to Girona, a beautiful little city about an hour and a half north of Barcelona and an hour from the south of France. We were given a guided tour of the city and had lunch at a Catalan restaurant. The Catalan language is so tricky to comprehend, as it seems like a mix of Spanish and French. Luckily we had a menu translation! My first course was a macaroni plate, my second was similar to Shepherds Pie in the United States, and for the third I had a traditional regional dessert known as miel y mato (honey and fresh cheese). The cheese was in-between the milk and cheese stages, so almost like a cottage cheese consistency that was dipped in honey. Surprisingly so delicious.
From Girona, we then drove another 30 minutes north to the city of Gerona (very similar name!) to visit the Salvador Dalí Theatre and Museum. Not usually a museum enthusiast but this place was CRAZY. He was crazy. He actually bought and converted an old Roman era theater and designed the museum himself (he’s even buried underneath!). In addition to Dalí paintings from all decades of his career, there are sculptures, 3-dimensional collages, mechanical devices, a living-room with custom furniture that looks like the face of Mae West when viewed from a certain spot, and other curiosities from Dalí’s imagination. Truly incredible.

Airports And A Few Other Things

When traveling, especially to a new place, I’m so focused on making sure I remember all the major things, that I often forget the smaller things.
Like taking pictures.
With the camera I buried in the middle of my luggage.
And therefore couldn’t have gotten to anyway.
Which unfortunately means I don’t have any pictures of Heathrow or Edinburgh airport.
Heathrow was possibly the strangest part of the trip because it wasn’t like any other airports I’ve been to. To start, it was bigger than Sea-Tac (the airport I am the most familiar with), but I think the part I found strangest was the way it didn’t feel like an airport. Instead it was more like a mall that decided to include international flights as one of its services, provided malls had a 50/50 ratio of normal shops to duty free ones. The thing I most wish I had gotten a picture of was the children’s play structure that I ended up sitting next to, not just because it existed (really, more airports should have them) but because it was simple unobtrusive colors of muted purple and grey rather than the bright, gaudy colors that structures in places geared towards children tend to be.
Edinburgh airport by contrast was very much an airport, with a lower concentration of shops that where very clearly geared towards things that travelers might need. Not much time was spent there beyond waiting for the shuttle driver who took me and the other international students from my flight to the student accommodations where we would be staying.
( House 28 is separated from House 34 by a Tavern. I’m curious what happened to Houses 29 through 33, but I feel I’d get lost if I went looking for them. I’m not all that interested in what happened 1 through 27 though. Also, Word Press won’t let me add my descriptions of my pictures as a caption right now, so I’m going to have to add them this way until the Deities of the Internet decide to smile upon me again. )
This is the point where I wanted to just go to sleep since I had slept a grand total of not at all on the plane, but I was also hungry and the site director for my program had set up a dinner at The Blackbird so everyone here with CIS could meet each other, so I ended up going to that.
( Their fish stew was more a pile of fish and potatoes and some shellfish than a thick soup, which is what I thing of as stew, but it was tasty. Also, I found out I have no idea how to eat mussels. )
I wasn’t really able to retain much information from the conversations over dinner since it was loud so I couldn’t hear anyone, and I was really tired, but it was fun none the less.
After that there wasn’t much to do but go to bed so I could get up for orientation in the morning.

Lost for words…


flagI am convinced that good writers must lead boring lives. I say this because the more interesting life I have the worst my writing gets. Give me two days on my farm and I will write you 10 pages of brilliance concerning horticulture, how I interact with the world, and the very meaning of life- but two days in Cape Town South Africa and I produce a few scribbles and a bullet list of snippets in my journal. 

Beautiful view of the waterfront and Table Top mountain looming in the distance

The reason being that this adventure from PDX airport to my apartment here in Cape Town could already fill countless pages so I get overwhelmed, pout a little, and then resort to my bullet points. Should I first write extensively about the unmatched beauty of Cape Town’s epic mountains, white beaches, European style cathedrals and the whole adventure paradise aspect of this city? But if I do that I would feel convicted to write equally about my political and social thoughts of the place and how this country is one of contradictions both beautiful and contemptible. 11 official languages alone make for a country that cannot be put in a box or stereotyped. I still have yet to meet the ideal South African because such a person doesn’t exist.  A refugee vendor will be selling gum and cigarettes steps away from a uber hip natural food store with a very white population inside that makes me feel like I am somewhere in Oregon. There are places in the city that expel wealth like sweat on a hot day and then minutes away neighbourhoods that roar poverty.

Evidence of the strong European influences in this nation

Although apartheid was abolished more than two decades ago, I have already experience distrust between whites and blacks. When I couldn’t exchange my money because I didn’t have my passport, a black vendor told me to follow him and he could help. I was immediately on my guard (which a smart traveller should always be) but followed him down an ally and into a room while staying very alert (Michelle Price if you’re reading this I promise I was always looking for escape routes and made sure people were still around ; )  The man sitting at the desk gave a decent exchange for my money and later Benjamin (my new found friends name) accused whites of not trusting blacks and was surprised that I came with him. I told him people probably just have a general distrust in humanity but still that experience was very interesting. On another note I have acquired sunburn that screams stupid tourist.

A statue of coke crates to honour the South African athletes who took medals in the Olympics

In order to fully appreciate my arrival, I must backtrack and talk about my departure. Turns out my flight left 24 earlier than I thought so that was a bit stressful but with the help of my amazing and beautiful room mates I got packed, cleared out my room and headed to the big city (and still had time for pancakes at 1:00 AM), then the passport people said I needed my yellow fever vaccination or I wouldn’t be let into the country. I couldn’t do anything at that point so I took a flight of faith and experienced a stress and anxiety I hope never to feel again. My fears were for naught – I’ve never had a more easy time with immigrations and apart from my bag getting on the wrong  flight my arrival went like clockwork.  I got in around 11:30 PM and headed to the bar with the other interns for a beer and pool.

birds eye view of the city

There is about 50 interns here in Cape Town and I live with about 10 of them. They come from all over the globe including Italy, Germany, Switzerland, South Africa, and Singapore.  I start my internship tomorrow and couldn’t be more excited. In conclusion, I think South Africa is a melting pot and a layered cake of cultures that blend with each other at times and then stand in stark contrast with each other at others.  My hope is to absorb all that Cape Town has to offer- especially the wine. Jane Austin, Napoleon, Obama, and Charles Dickinson sought after South African wine so I think I’ll be in good company.



Made It Safely to New Zealand, Auckland! Now just waiting to board the plane for Wellington. I left Portland Around 4:20 PM (fight was delayed an hour) we had to walk to the small plane and it was below freezing! (thanks Jolee, for the gloves!) Arrived in Vancouver,Canada and had to rush to my next fight because of the delay, but made it cause of the nice airport staff telling the plane I would be a bit late. Left Canada 6:30ish. The flight wasn’t too bad. We had 2 meals Supper (they didn’t get the pre-order for a veggie meal for me. The people in front of me heard this and gave me their salads, crackers and cheese. ^_^) and Breakfast (was fruit, yogurt, orange juice and a little more but I forget) . There was a lot of turbulence, it didn’t bother me to much. It reminded me of a fair ride or a roller coaster rider without the drops. Everyone had their own TV you could watch movies, TV shows, listen to music and much more. from 11 PM-6 AM Pacific time they turned off the lights and air-conditioning so we could sleep. The air was so dry I thought and any moment I would get a noise bleed. We landed at 5 am NZ time. When I went to get my checked luggage I found out that it missed it’s flight back in Canada.  Then when I went to my next flight I had to check one of my carry-on’s here 🙁 which cost me $185.40 O.O ouch! Arrived at 9:30 am NZ time in Wellington. Met Angela there and she took me to the Flat (apartment) and met Katie one of my Flatmates. Took a nap and then shopped for food. Ate and then went to sleep again. The weather here is so nice between 60-80 F and it’s clear sky. Very beautiful.


Jaw Dropping First Impressions

 It wasn’t easy to get here but I finally did, after going through multiple airports, bus systems, and an over night stay in Newark New Jersey, arriving in London gave me such peace. As I arrived in the airport, by accident I bumped into another CCSA student, both of us being in the baggage claiming line. Her name was Liz we were able to help each other and ended up finding a bigger group that was heading to the Washington MayFair. I felt like a very lucky girl. I had all feelings of confusion and mixed emotions having not slept whatsoever. Heading to the hotel was a good feeling, knowing that I was safe and headed in the right direction. We were told my two CCSA teachers that we would go on a tour, suddenly my eyes popped straight open and I was no longer tired, but jumping up and down in excitement. I kept saying to my self, ” I cant believe I am here.”

A Breath Taking Moment

The House of Parliament

The House of Parliament near the Royal Gallery located in Westminster was one of the first buildings that completely took my breath away. Stepping in front of this building and looking up, had my jaw wide open and my eyes in complete shock of the architecture that I was facing straight on. And the history behind this building is incredible. Having two houses of parliament the Lords and the Commons. Big debates occur here, the government formulating legislation.

The streets were covered with people,  but for a second I felt like it was only I that was looking at this incredible building. It was so surreal. It was only the first couple hours and I felt sure of my being here in this city, this small town girl had arrived!

As I kept walking around, I came upon this other beauty…


Westminister Abbey

Westminster Abbey which is one of the oldest and most important churchs in London. Kate Middleton and princess Diana both wed in this holly church.  This image is set with my camera looking up because I wanted to show how high these towers actually are. And how the arc is centered perfectly between the two towers. This West Tower front was completed in 1745 and was design by NichlasHawksMoor. I learned that with in the walls, there are examples of mid-evil architecture, its a half church and half natural museum. This whole time I am walking around, my fear, feeling of aloneness all went away. It was surely a jaw dropping first day.


Just landed in the Land Down Under

Just landed in Sydney!

I just got to the first hostel that I am staying at while in Sydney where I am meeting my CIS Abroad group. They come in tomorrow and I can’t wait to meet them all. Sydney is a little different than I have expected, its cold out and very windy. Already knowing that it was winter in Australia right now but I didn’t think it was gonna be as similar to Oregon’s winter. I went exploring downtown at Circular Quay tonight and walked around by the Sydney Opera House, it really is as amazing as it looks in pictures. The material that it is made out of (the white tiles) are self cleaning, so when it rains they keep staying shiny white. So interesting that they never have to clean it. I can’t wait to meet everyone tomorrow and get going with my program, we are headed up north a bit to a small beach town called Newcastle for a few days to play!


I Made It Alive!

I liked this view as we made our landing for my layover in Brussels, Belgium.

Post for Thursday June 28, 2012

Yesterday I left my home in Salem, Oregon at 5am with my dad to catch my flight from Portland to Philadelphia at 8:15am. I could hardly sleep with the anticipation of my flight and some nervous worries. I kept thinking about all the little things that could go wrong with my layovers or my luggage getting lost. I was also excited yet nervous to meet my home-stay family. Once my dad and I got to the Portland airport, everything went pretty smoothly. I got a window seat on my flight to Philadelphia and I sat next to a girl who was studying to be a biologist. I felt somewhat embarrassed towards the end of our flight because I suddenly started to feel nauseous. I was sweating heavily, I felt thirsty and started to get a headache and I almost vomited into the bag in the seat in front of me. I kept apologizing to the girl next to me. This was my least favorite of my three flights because, although it was not the longest, it was an uncomfortable flight and I do not know why I felt sick at the end. At the Philadelphia airport I got some delicious Chinese food without knowing that my flight to Brussels, Belgium would serve a meal. This was a much better flight because they gave us small pillows and I could sleep better even though it was my longest flight. I took a few pictures on my flights that I will post to share.

One thing I was disappointed in myself for was that I did not try any cheese-steak in Philadelphia, nor chocolate in Belgium. I completely forgot to get some. That’s okay though because I was just happy to make it to Barcelona without any issues. Once I arrived to the Barcelona Airport it took me some time to find my program mentors, but as soon as I did they gave me a map, and several other forms with information on where to go and what to do for the next three days. Once another student in my program showed up we took a taxi together to our homestays. The taxi could not stop in front of my building so it dropped me off at the end of the street and I was alone to find my way from there. I felt quite intimidated by my strange surroundings and uncomfortable as I looked for an unfamiliar building and apartment number. I found the right building and I knew I was supposed to go up the elevator to SA 2 which is the top floor but I mistakenly went to A 2 thinking I was at the right place so I awkwardly knocked on the door waiting for a response from a woman named Lety. I waited and knocked again several times but no one answered. I decided I would just wait since I was about 15 minutes early and perhaps they were home yet. Soon after an old lady with a little girl showed up and stared at me strangely as I asked the old lady if she was Lety. The old lady asked me which apartment I was looking for when I told her I was looking for Lety from SA 2 and she smiled and told me I was on the wrong floor and she kindly guided me upstairs to the last floor where we could here a radio from inside of the apartment I am now staying in. Apparently the radio is only turned on when no one is home so once again I waited outside the door until my host family arrived.

Lety and her two boys came out of the elevator and were surprised to see me outside of their apartment but quickly realized who I was and promptly introduced themselves and led me to my room. I could not quite remember what the names of the kids were because I remember thinking they were very unusual names. My host mom left me to unpack and settle into the room and told me that if I had any question I should feel free to ask her. Lety also gave me a set of their house keys so that I could come and go as I please and only asked that I please let her know when I was going to be home for dinner and when I wouldn’t be. I really liked this because I feared that my host family would be strict and limiting. After just two hours of being in my homestay I had to make my way towards an orientation at my school so I took my map and made my way to a (fairly distant) metro station. It was a scorching hot and humid day so I was quite sweaty once I finally made it to school. Our orientation was kind of boring but afterwards we went out to the main Plaza of Barcelona called Plaza Catalunya and we got some ice-cream. There I made my first friends Yianni, Arti, and Michelle and we walked down “Las Ramblas” towards the port by ourselves since everyone else wanted to go back home and rest. We were too eager to see Barcelona. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me so I could not take any pictures but we had a long walk around the port and we got to see some pretty cool buildings and ships. Eventually I found my way home and I am glad to be back in my apartment to get some rest, although I am not sure how well I will sleep with all this heat in my room. I have opened my window but there is no air coming in our out so I feel like I’m in a sauna. Either way I am so excited and happy to finally be in Barcelona.



“Just to travel is rather boring, but to travel with a purpose is educational and exciting.” – Sergeant Shriver

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Paul Fadiman

Real Life?

Upon Arrival (Again), this time in Angers
How many countries, how many footsteps, how many Euros (don’t think about it), how many people, how many sights seen, and now finally, ANGERS!

Angers: (On-Jay) or (Ehn gehay) or maybe (Ahnj-hae) I give up, listen to it on Google Translate.

Like a lot of the past month, on the last morning in Paris getting up to head to Angers, I didn’t really have much time for thinking or feeling. I had breakfast in the train station and found my platform. After a moment for thankyous and goodbyes, I had to walk quickly away without turning around to wave as I walked into what will someday be a milestone and what had always been just a dream and a plan and now was reality. Reality. Reality? Reality.  This is the longest I time I’ve been so far from home. Trusting the reputation of study abroad programs, I lifted my chin, then lifted my suitcase and sat on the train to Angers. Angers. (Pardon the repetition while I try to convince myself that this is real life….REAL life).

Once situated, I pulled out the information for arrival printed from AHA. I suddenly felt really unprepared. It had been so long since orientation and even longer since I’d read preparation materials online. I was under the impression that everyone else would be much more informed upon arrival. As if cramming for a test I studied the cultural and historical information I had access to and did actually learn a good few tidbits. Judging by how thankful I was for that new information, I regretted even more not doing better research.

The other entertainment on the train was a fascinating French quartet; three women and one man. They all seemed to be about the same age and I could not figure out their relationships with one another. At one point, two women moved leaving one alone with her laptop. The man got out a fancy camera and videoed some very interesting shots of her working as I was dying of curiosity and wishing I’d brushed up on my French before arriving. Little did I know just how much I’d wish that, later!

The train ride went pretty quickly and I was getting off before I knew it. My only goal; to find the AHA sign! I think I will remember the following moment for the rest of my life. I can’t claim to have been jet lagged but I was in some sort of fog. Two friendly women greeted me and spoke French and “kissed” my cheeks and I was rather confused and speechless. I had gotten into a routine and didn’t have a lot of emotional transition time. Almost the way I’d imagine a doll house person feels when a giant 7 year old transports them to an unfamiliar place and then wanders off to tend to their stuffed kitten. Introductions were done and I said “A demain” to Sue Crust, the site director, and followed my new host mom to where my host dad awaited with the car.

I felt awkward the whole ride. I had no idea where we were going and I could hardly communicate. I sat quietly and nervously knowing the answers to many questions were coming soon. My host parents tried to point things out to me and I tried desperately to understand and remember while secretly feeling really stupid.

It was warm the day of my arrival, really warm actually. I was sort of surprised. Another surprise, was that on the drive home, we pulled over, my new host mom hopped out, ran into a “boulangerie” and returned with a baguette. SERIOUSLY?! Awesome. Real life, Emily, this is real life! Not a scene from a movie….

Arrival at the house I recognized from Google maps brought a mini wave of apprehension but I was mostly comforted by its home-y-ness! It is adorable and I loved it!

The house! See the three windows above the Garage? That’s my room!
Brittany, I hope you don’t mind being in the picture…

I got a tour and a review of the household terms in French.

The hall at the top of the stairs. Right – Le salle de bain (bathroom), next right – ma chambre (my bedroom). Left – Brittany’s room and my host parent’s room.

Top of the stairs where the previous picture was taken from.

First observation: no pets. Bummer that there was no kitty to welcome me, but a relief there wasn’t a yappy little dog to chew on the shoes we’re not supposed to wear on the staircase. I was shown the kitchen and bathrooms and told where to put things and find things and at the end, I was given the choice between two bed rooms. I preferred the downstairs bedroom in terms of decoration, storage space and access to the patio, but I decided on the upstairs room next to the bathroom and another student’s bedroom. So this was it. My tour was over, my spot was chosen, and I had about 3 hours before we returned to the train station to pick up my Oregonian roommate! Still sort of numb, I didn’t unpack. In each place we’d stayed while traveling I was eager to unzip my suitcase and settle in, but here, it felt weird to take things out and put them in a wardrobe where they’d stay for the next 4 months.  Not to mention the pressure of deciding where to store what. That’s a lot of pressure, you know.

The view of those 3 windows from the inside!

The view out those three windows. (This is for you mom)

My host dad interrupted me, busily doing nothing, to offer “wee-fee”. What the heck? Wee-fee?! I had no idea what I was agreeing to. “Ok, thanks!” (The only two words I could remember in French at that moment). He shuffled away and I got up to follow, we walked into the room with a computer….OH! Wifi!!! Hooray! I had a private, silent celebration. And promptly figured out how to log in from my laptop. Success and a great signal! Life couldn’t possibly be too bad, even without a cat.

Now is a good time to bring up day one discomforts. Day one discomforts (DODs) are horrible. Truly awful! So, I’ll do my best to explain; basically an indistinguishable swarm of emotions (that only subside do to the distraction of a French meal). It’s the feeling of being in a new place, all alone, with hundreds of questions, feeling lonely, worried, tired, overwhelmed and so many other things all at once. Your sense of time is slightly off and you are aware that you are ridiculously emotional and that it will pass, but you can’t help but be homesick and wonder what you’ve gotten into.  For those first few hours, I knew I was experiencing just DODs because I recognized the feeling from my first night at SIBA – and look how that turned out! But I still couldn’t convince myself and I moped and missed people until it was time for lunch.

Lunch: Prepare yourselves. Food is about to become much more of a theme in these blogs than it already is. This was my first meal in Angers and first home cooked food in a long time (besides in Switzerland). My host mom spoiled me with beats, potatoes, something else, and chocolate for dessert. The whole time I was eating, I was feeling shy and uncomfortable, partially because I was unfamiliar with the way meals worked and also because I couldn’t communicate! It’s so hard. My host parents speak English, which, I guess, is a good thing!

In the car on the way back to the train station, I was grilled. Question 1: Political and religious views. (Needed to make sure I was going to vote for the right person and figure out if I’d be going to church with them) Question 2: Do you have a boy friend at home?  Priorities.

We picked up Brittany, and briefly met our third roommate that would be moving in the next day. I liked them both and knew we’d get along. Poor Brittany probably just wanted to sleep and instead it was my turn to do the grilling and asked all the normal questions on the car ride home.

Dinner: Meals are incredible. Seriously, even better than lunch! I had told my host mom I don’t like tomatoes and since it was tomato quiche for the main course, she prepared scrambled eggs with herbs for me! Besides the food, it was a better meal because Brittany was there (after I awkwardly woke her up) and we could help each other talk and understand.
Here is a brief summary of an example of a typical French meal:
1) Fruit or vegetable dish
2) Main course and side dish
3) Cheese, bread and red wine course
4) Dessert
They take their time, enjoy their food and wine, and don’t leave out the cheese! I’m sure, if you follow my blog of my time in Angers, or come to my apartment for dinner in January, you will learn more than you wanted to about how a meal works in France.

For now, my final upon arrival notes include:
-Communicating is hard. Thank goodness for patience pants, mini dictionaries and universal sign language.
-So excited for orientation during the first full day. I’m ready to be informed!
-I went from a clear shower door in Austria to no shower door in France. I’m not kidding. It’s just the bathtub (which is elevated) and no curtain or anything. Look:

Can you tell? You can’t see how the tub is elevated in this picture.

-More thoughts on my specific DODs:
I had gotten used to being able to speak English all over these Western European countries and with other international students. I hadn’t tried speaking French much and hadn’t realized how rusty I’d gotten, so that added to the emotion – in the form of frustration. It’s especially hard when the people you are trying to talk to, are actually French and don’t have American accents with their French. I am also worried about doing little things that are not too offensive but that do violate cultural norms in public and annoy people/make me stand out as a foreigner.

Anyway, as you all know, I like to talk, so it’s hard when I can’t. I hope my French improves fast!

A bientot!

Estoy aqui!

I´ve only been in Guatemala for five days, but I feel a timelessness as if I´ve been here for ages. The nervousness and anxiety I was feeling before I arrived has completely melted away. Papa, you were right. I was ready.

A driver named Donal and a staff member, Lisa, from Long Way Home picked me up from the airport. Donal forgot his sign that says Long Way Home, so if Lisa hadn´t been able to recognize me it might have been a whole other kind of experience. The trip from Guatemala City to San Juan Comalapa is about an hour and a half. Lisa asked me if I wanted to stop at Taco Bell and I was like, “um, of course!” The drive through was called Auto Bell and they served potatoes as a side. It was a really awesome first experience in Guatemala. Afterwards, we drove to Comalapa in the rain and thank goodness Donal is such a good driver because traffic in the city is insane! Huge buses that they call chicken busses weave in and out of traffic cutting off motorbikes, cars, and bicycles. I´m sure accidents happen all the time, but Donal is an expert, so we made it safe and sound.

For now, I am staying in the volunteer house in an aldea (a tiny village) called Chimiya. But now that I´ve been here for a little while, I am seriously considering staying with host family. I really want to feel connected with the city and the people. Some past volunteers have told me that is the best way to be accepted into the community. They said they can put me in touch with some families, so we´ll see how that works out.

As for work, I am still trying to find my place within the Long Way Home crew. Their Volunteer Coordinator left unexpectedly right before I arrived, so they are in some transition. I am going to ask if I can take on some of that position´s responsibilities because that is where they have the most need. So far, I have been doing some construction jobs and working with the Guatemalan crew, which has been amazing. Most of them are indigenous Mayans and they have been teaching me their language, Kaqchikel. In return, I´ve been teaching them English. My Spanish has improved already and I am fully enjoying speaking in another language. I actually feel like a bit of a different person when I speak Spanish. I don´t know how to explain it, but it definitely feels different.

My first weekend here, I traveled with some other volunteers to Lake Atitilan and Antigua. We took the chicken buses, which are such an experience themselves that I think I am going to write a whole blog on them. For another time. Anyway, in Atitilan we stayed in a small village called San Marcos. There isn´t much of a night life there, but there are many yoga and meditation retreats. We ate some delicious curry and found a girls soccer game to watch with the locals. The next morning we left pretty early to travel to Antigua where we stayed at a hostel called Earth Lodge. Ay chicas, what a place! There were travelers from all over the world; Europe, Australia, Israel, Chile, and New York. I met so many cool people for example this guy Marcos who lives in Guate City. He drew me a map of all these places to go and things to do. His friend, Mariela, was visiting him from Chile and we all hung out together for the night. In the morning I did yoga from the top of a mountain looking out over Antigua and two volcanoes, Fuego and Agua. It was a beautiful experience.

With the weekend at an end, I am back in Comalapa ready for my second week of work. I have already done and seen so much I´m not sure where to go next! But thanks to people like Marcos, I have plenty of suggestions.

The internet here comes and goes, so hopefully you all will be hearing from me soon. Hasta que, cuidale.