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Discovering unexpected buildings »

This is one of my first pictures of the Pantheon

Living in a large ancient city definitely took an adjustment. Most of the streets were windy and narrow without any sidewalks. Cars, mopeds, and pedestrians have to share the area. Navigating through all the streets was definitely a process and it was still easy to get lost. People’s driving was insane in Rome and parking was interesting. Cars would park on curbs, squeeze into tiny parking spots, and people would make their own spots wherever they pleased. There were so many changes (big and small) that took getting used to. However, it was amazing living in an ancient city and every day I grew to appreciate it more and more. One of my first days wandering around the city was with a group of people from my school and we were following a friend who was navigating us to the Trevi fountain. I did not have a map with me so I did not know where we were going or what was around us. As we turn a corner, all the sudden the Pantheon is right in front of us. This grand building commissioned by Agrippa in 126 AD! It is surreal thinking how old the building is and seeing it in the middle of a piazza. It became one of my favorite buildings and whenever I would cut through the middle of the city, I could count on passing by the Pantheon. Eventually I grew to love the ancient city that I called my home for a few months.

This picture was taken on one of our final days in Rome. We went around to see the Roman sites one last time

Thanksgiving in the Land the Pilgrims Fled »

Turkey Marsala, Herb Risotto, and Brussels Sprouts

This is a photo of the Thanksgiving dinner that I prepared for myself while studying abroad in England. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because I love spending a cozy and relaxing day at home with my family. It was difficult to have my first Thanksgiving away from home in a different country, and without my close friends to help ease the homesickness. I found a way to celebrate the holiday with my flatmates (who had very specific dietary needs) by making vegan, nut-free pumpkin pies. It was funny to hear what my British flatmates thought about Thanksgiving, and their responses demonstrated some of the British/American tension that I experienced during my time abroad. For example, one girl asked if Thanksgiving was an “anti-British” holiday, at which point I explained to her that the pilgrims were actually British themselves. Luckily, none of my flatmates had ever eaten pumpkin pie before. so they didn’t know how wrong my attempt tasted!

A Plethora of Foxes in Traditional Japan »

I studied abroad in Kawagoe, Japan this past fall semester. Although there were many frustrating and trying times trying to integrate into a culture so vastly different from what I was accustomed too, it was so incredibly rewarding. I met many friends, both American and Japanese, and made so many great memories that I still reflect on from a day-to-day basis while back to my regular life at Willamette.

While there’s no possible way to share even a fraction of what I was able to see in my four months, one particularly fun trip was to the Kansai region, where cities like Kyoto present a more traditional and spiritual side of Japan, in contrast to the bustling cosmopolitan area of Tokyo where we lived. I was able to become close with the people in my program and see a lot of amazing sights. Here’s a few photos to document our 5 day journey:

Our first stop to Miyajima. Popularly known as “shrine island,” you might recognize the giant shrine gate that stands out in the middle of the water. Here, the tide was out, so you could actually walk over to it!

This is the “genbaku dome” in Hiroshima. This building was miraculously left standing after the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. It stands as a testament to this dark time in history in hopes that nuclear weapons will never be used in wartime again.

This is the “kinkakuji” or the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. It’s covered in gold leaf and resides on an island out in the middle of a giant lake/pond. Beautiful!

My personal favorite place was the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine a little ways outside of Kyoto. You might recognize these gates from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. There are hundreds of these gates that wend every which way and lead to thousands of shrines with statues of foxes, the messengers of Inari.

Group shot of the Japan Studies Program group at Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most well-known temples in Japan.

流鏑馬 (yabusame) Mounted Archery »

Traditional Japanese Archery

My host family showed me a flyer for an archery event at the park near our house. I convinced my friend Alyssa to go with me. The event was fun and the archery was amazing. The archers raced down a path and shot at three targets. They did this routine three times before the event ended. This event showed that the Japanese treasure tradition and also amazed me with Japan’s long history.

Takoyaki fun »

Making lunch with friends

When my friend invited our mutual friend Kelsey and me to come to her house, I didn’t realize I’d get to make takoyaki. I’d eaten takoyaki before and really enjoyed it, and had been wanting to learn to prepare a Japanese dish. Takoyaki seemed like a good choice. After all how hard could making small round,fried batter with octopus inside be? As I quickly learned though the initial steps were easy, actually flipping the ball of dough was not. Thankfully my friends didn’t mind my ineptness and we ultimately ended up bonding even more while having a really fun time.

Jazz Cafe in Japan »

Older Jazz musicians from my hometown of New Orleans have proclaimed to me that the country to bring the next golden age of Jazz will be Japan. With this prediction in mind, I decided to go to a theme cafe where Jazz is not performed, but consumed. Milestone, a jazz cafe located just blocks away from of the Seibu Shinjuku Station took me to a different world from the crowds and excessive neon lights that the district is famous for.
Inside, we were greeted by an old man wearing a light kimono signaling for us to sit at any of the six tables in the slightly cramped room. Books about jazz lined one wall, while records occupied another. On the third wall sat a massive and ancient stereo system. With its old electric tubes and wires exposed, it played vinyl and CD’s of old American Jazz musicians. My friend at first tried to sit at a table where his back would face the speakers, but the host came and gestured for him to move. Aside from the music, there were no other sounds to be heard. The host tried his hardest to not speak—save for when he needed to tell us to buy an alcoholic drink. I am a music lover, but I couldn’t help but feel a little awkward sitting at attention in complete silence to a machine playing music for me. However, after a while I became immersed in the music and almost caught myself clapping at the end of a song. When the host was not making drinks or food, he flipped through crates of records and CD’s, deciding which song to play next. While we were there, an old salary man came in, quietly ordered a glass of wine, and then sat as close to the speaker as he could. For the rest of the night he sat there with his eyes closed and his head bobbing to the music.

Where East Meets West »

This was taken outside of the Blue Mosque.

We went with the entire group of exchange students to all of the touristy locations.

Somehow I never made it back. That is one of biggest regrets about my trip.

During a trip organized by a group of Turkish grads, we were stopped at a shady beach town.

We went exploring and found this coffee shop with a beautiful view of the water.

This experience was very reflective of my entire trip in that we always had to dig a little deeper in order find interesting things in certain areas.

This picture was taken very quickly because we were terrified of being criticized for being touristy and commodifying the culture. But we really loved the hats and wanted some documentation of it. This was a common trend of for cultural things we wanted to experience.

This was in Cappadoica, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. This is the only picture I have from this day which I really regret. The rock formations were indescribable.

This is Lake Tuz, a massive salt lake. During the rainy months, the lake becomes a giant mirror. With only a few inches of water on the ground, you can walk across it. Unfortunately we weren’t there during that time but we still got to watch the sun rise over the hills surrounding the lake. I really want to go back during the raining season at some point though.

One of the most shocking things about my exchange were the amount of stray cats and dogs that littered the streets. The locals were disgusted by them and it was hard to watch them interact with them. I eventually became numb to it, but I never really got use to it.

This was one of the most exciting days of my exchange. We attracted a crowd of over 50 bystanders in the process of trying to recreate the final scene from Dirty Dancing for my photography class.

This was what they were looking at.

I went to Budapest for my birthday in December. It was the only time I was able to leave the country during my exchange because of issues with my residence permit. I’m so glad I chose to go to Budapest though because it is such a beautiful city. Also because Turkey is a Muslim nation, this was the only taste I had of Christmas this past year.

Los Galápagos »

This picture was taken on San Cristobal island in the Galapagos Islands. We had arrived in Ecuador only weeks before, and everyone was very excited for our trip. This photo is significant to me because exploring the Galapagos Islands was one of my favorite experiences while abroad. I had never been in an environment where wild animals were so unafraid of humans. Additionally, this trip is when our Willamette group started to form our friendship. We were all nervous, excited, happy, worried about our host families and thankful for the opportunity to study abroad. For me, this picture represents the beginning of my five months abroad in Ecuador.

Good day in Spain »

This picture reminds me of one of my favorite moments in Spain. This picture was taken on my birthday and its of me and some of my new friends that I made while abroad. By the time this picture was taken I had about a month left until I would return home in the United States. By this point I had gotten over all the homesickness related struggles that I felt at the beginning of my experience with all the new bigger and smaller cultural differences. What was great about this day was that going to the discotecas and bars for social purposes had become repetitive, given that the Spanish like to go out much later and often than Americans. While those things were still nice too do, it was fun having two of my good friends throw me a little house party gathering for my birthday. This picture is of me, my friends, and two cops that were very nice and willing to take pictures with us, even though I think they were there to stop the party. The Spanish culture is so different than in the US not just in terms of their law enforcement, but also in just how their culture is so much more relaxed.

Some difficulties that are common for studying abroad and that I even had difficult with, despite meeting so much new people is in how hard it is to be somewhere where you don’t have you’re normal friends. What’s hard about this is that it almost forces you to go outside of you’re comfort zone and exercise you’re social skills. What I mean by social skills is in the way you interact with other people. While it may be easy to act one way around people that you have know for a long time and feel comfortable with, it is much more difficult to try and express yourself and the essence of who you are to people that don’t know you the same way. My advice for if you’re having these difficulties is to take a deep breath, do something fun, or talk to someone about it that you feel that you can trust.

-Ramon Arredondo

Firenze! »

Top of the Santa Maria Duomo

Sept 17

Florence! Firenze!

Today, Cybelle and I traveled to the beautiful city of Florence. We took the train from Termina to Florence and it took about an hour and a half. The train went really fast a total speed of about 250km/h which is equivalent to one of Andy Roddick’s serve or 150mph. The train was really nice and super comfortable. Our seats were in groups of four with two on each side and a table in the middle. Also we went with Brooke! We were finally reunited after 3 months apart. YAY! The first thing we saw was Santa Maria Novella. You had to pay to go in so we didn’t get to see the inside. But the outside was pretty. It had nice architecture. Then off we went to the biggest and most famous religious church in the world, the Santa Maria del Fiore. For 10 euros we were able to go into the crypt of the church, the baptistery, and the top of the dome (463 steps, no lift). The baptistery was absolutely stunning, with the gold doors, the gold ceiling, and all of that art and architecture. It’s definitely a must see. Off we went to inside the church. Which was beautiful too. The stained glass work was my favorite part. Whenever the light shone through the colors would pop and it would be absolutely brilliant. Loved it so much! Then we went to the underground crypt. Saw some of the things that pots were made out of. The mosaicy floor, some bones placed in a certain way. The tombs of priests and other important people. After that we went to the museum that had a lot of statues that were once in the church and the actual golden/bronze doors of the baptistery. The doors symbolized the old testament and the artist put his own portrait into the doors. It was massive and magnificent. After, we went to the Palazzo Vecchio. It’s the symbol of Florence and the city hall. There were a lot of statues surrounding the place. Statues of roman myths and gods. I took a picture next to a lion! ROAR! It was right next to the Galleria degli Uffizi which is the biggest museum in all of Italy. We didn’t go into any museums, next time I am there I am definitely going to the Leonardo Da Vinci museum and the Galileo Museum. Outside were all of these statues of famous peeps, like Donatello, Michelangelo, Dante, famous knights and kings, and artists, and scientists. This was right next to Ponte Vecchio on the Amo River. The bridge is known for gold and selling gold jewelry. I wanted to buy some earrings but didn’t sigh. Next time. Palazzo Pierte. It was pretty, but we didn’t go inside. However, it houses very beautiful gardens though. Off we went to Santa Croce another magnificent church. The outside had so much detail, that it was hard not to stare at it for hours. Even if we were we would never be able to fully notice every single feature part of the church. Now it was 5:50 and we were rushing back to the dome to go inside of it. Off we went to the top of the dome, which had no line whatsoever so we were able to quickly walk up the 463 steps. Well however fast it takes to walk all the way to the top. The stairs were fine at the bottom but towards the top the stairs get scarier and scarier. They start getting twisty and smaller. Then towards the very top they got super steep. But on our way up we got to see the top of the dome, where are all of the paintings are. Looking from the floor makes them seem so tiny but there is so much detail in each and every person/ creature and they are so massive! Then we made it to the top and boy was it beautiful. Look throughout Florence on top of the Santa Maria Fiore dome. Truly an incredible experience. Best way to end our trip to Florence. And off we went back to Rome. We only have a few more days in Rome, before heading off to Leicester, England!

Denise Poltavski