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February »

What a CRAZY month. I really enjoy writing these travel posts but things have literally never been more busy, and unfortunately stressful. There’s been some shit going down within the program, but it’s finally getting resolved, and I’m doing this to remember some good moments throughout this month, so here’s a condensed version.

First of all I just have to say that it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt so happy with a group of people, the friends around me are my foundation, and countless moments with them make me appreciate them infinitely as people. I’m super grateful to be able to spend the time I have here with them, and I’m so glad we have each other when shit hits the fan.

Last I wrote I had seen Cillian Murphy at my uni (still freaking out) the day before my birthday, which kicked off an awesome birthday weekend! We got a full Irish breakfast on Saturday for my bday, went around the market on Shop St, and later all gathered at my place for a little party before getting drinks and bowling. Honestly I can’t remember what I did on Sunday but I remember the whole weekend was lots of fun haha

By that point all of our seminars and lectures had begun, so class really got going. I’ve already had several papers, presentations, and books to read just in this month. I’m taking a seminar on death in the contemporary novel, which while interesting, could be so much better. Sadly the teacher has a very narrow view of death, and all the books she picks reflects that. We’ve read Pure by Andrew Miller and I’m currently reading Everyman by Philip Roth, which is slightly based on the morality play. I’m bracing myself for the wave of SEVEN final papers all due within a couple weeks… But I’ve been going to zumba and salsa classes during the week, which are a good distraction. I’m still surprised by how much I enjoy salsa, I pick up the steps pretty easily and, especially when I have a good partner, I can kick some dancefloor butttt

Anyway, the weekend after my birthday we went to Northern Ireland! Our trip didn’t include the Giant’s Causeway, which is pretty much the only thing I NEED to see in all of Ireland, but I’ll make it there on my own at some point. So as we traveled we stopped at Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, which has over 60 of Ireland’s oldest tombs. The grounds were gorgeous, you could look out to other mountain ranges far away and be able to spot tomb markers from where we were. There was also a huge hill/mound not far off that’s said to be the tomb of Queen Maeve, and there was definitely something magical about it. It was incredibly windy and cold though, so that tour was yet another added to the list of tours that ended in us wanting to collapse. But there was a pony there. He was pretty cute.

We stopped in Sligo for about an hour, then continued to Co. Derry where we got to stay in a hotel!!! That is a big deal!!! We were glad we experienced staying in an uncomfortable and sketchy hostel so we could truly appreciate this one-time experience. We had to pay for the meals there, but at breakfast it was basically buffet style so we gorged while we could and stashed the rest in our purses hahaha. They had a pool and gym there, but it wasn’t heated so I just hung out with people around it later that night. We ended up befriending the nice pool bar guy, who was pretty young and chatted with us about a lot of things, mostly country-specific stuff. He wants to move to Boston actually, because he hates living there. We asked about going to Belfast the next day, and he gave us some valuable insight. As someone who grew up around there in neighborhoods that were still highly segregated by religion (which almost equates to political position), he said that they will have us believe that after all the civil war and riots there is now peace. There is not. Tensions are still quite high, and people, police, etc are still being shot and killed as a result. We knew to stay aware as we went about our touring the next day.

Thankfully we didn’t spend too much time out on our own, because we had a guided bus tour. We picked up our guide and he narrated as we went. We stopped to walk around various historical towers, castles, docks, etc. We also got to sign our names on one of the many murals on the Peace Wall. The Titanic was actually built in Belfast, and at the docks where it was made were the Titanic Studios where they film Game of Thrones!! They don’t allow tours inside, but it was kinda crazy to know that stars from the show had walked in that area, which is so industrial and very different from the world of GoT. By noon we were at the Parliament Building (Stormont), where an official tour guide from it took us around. He said something like “watch out for this one!” when I answered that my relatives were from County Mayo. Maybe we’re known rebels or something. Beware.

A few of us walked around the Belfast City Center, which is kind of like the Grove at home, a giant shopping area. That felt safer and more insular, as everywhere else we were had spikes and armoring. We finally made up our minds on where to get dinner, then managed to go to the top of the center to the lookout over all of Belfast. Some pretty good pictures were taken with the cityscape, and then we went back to the hotel.

The next day we did a walking tour of the town Derry, which had closed itself off to the world when there was all the fighting happening. There were murals everywhere of the riots, of people who had fought, of people who had died. If I remember right, one mural showed a little girl, who was the first victim claimed by the riots. We walked along the Derry City Wall, which was how they shut themselves away, and from there we could look out and see the tiny, gorgeous city tucked into this corner of the world. Wind and hail be damned, it was worth it to see a rainbow arcing over the jampacked houses and cemetery for the split second that it lived.

On our way back to Galway we stopped at a beautiful little cemetery in Drumcliffe where W.B. Yeats is (maybe) buried. I spent every second I could walking around the muddy grass, trying to read the moss-grown engravings, and leaning in close to say hello to the blooming snow drops. I wish we spent more time in places with less grandeur and history, and with more nature.

This is quite long isn’t it? The second half of February will be continued in another post. It’s 3 am, so I’ll say goodnight~

My Days in Prague »

I will start off by saying that it is very difficult to write down what it’s like to be in a foreign country for three and a half months of your life. But I will do my best to describe being in one of the most amazing cities in the world. The first day I was in Prague, I took as many photos as I could because I was in complete awe of what I was seeing and I never wanted to forget it.

The first picture I took in Prague.

I walked around Prague that day with my jaw on the ground. What I hadn’t anticipated was how amazing the city would look. I knew that Prague was beautiful from pictures I had seen online, but what I didn’t realize was that once I had inserted myself into the city, it would feel different. I suddenly knew that I wasn’t in a place I was familiar with. I didn’t know the people, I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know the customs. People try to prepare you for the differences that you’ll experience abroad before you leave. Sometimes, it sounds like the adjustment will come slowly and gradually, but, for me, it came extremely quickly and suddenly. It’s important to realize that everyone adjusts differently and you never know when the adjustment will hit you. It could be three weeks in, or it could be the first time you step out into the city and take your first picture.

The Bullfight »

Opening Ceremony

Brandon Guyton Photo Submission

I went and saw a bullfight in Spain, also known as “una corrida de toros.”  This image depicts the opening ceremony, before they bring out the bulls.  There were six, separate bullfights in total, although I only stayed for three.  While it was an interesting cultural experience, I do not believe it is something that I would enjoy watching again.  Photo Submission by Brandon Guyton

A Day in the Life in Buenos Aires »

One of my most frustrating days while abroad… Don’t get me wrong, the semester was fantastic. Days like this are just part of the experience:

Allow me to take you on a journey of a typical day in the life of an extranjera in Buenos Aires. Buckle in, folks, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Imagine: You set an alarm on an American phone still stuck in an American time zone. Because you’re good at math, you set the alarm four hours ahead. Oh, but daylight savings just happened and your phone’s on mountain-time, not west coast time? Surprise, you just woke up at 7:00 for a 10:00 visa appointment at the immigrations office! Probably for the better though, as this office is notoriously impossible to find. This way you have extra time to plan. After deciding on a route and writing down very detailed directions, you embark on what you know will be a long day. (Apart from being hard to find, migrations also has a fabulous reputation of taking an unbearably long time.)

You walk out the door: it’s raining.

No worries, you have a raincoat.

And here comes the bus! Oh, but wait… For reasons you don’t completely understand, the bus won’t take you where you want to go. Luckily, another soon approaches. This driver doesn’t seem too confident about your destination either, but you know this bus goes where you need it to go, so you take a seat.

The bus is going the right way. Psh, you know this route better than the driver! You look out the window on full alert, determined not to miss your stop. That, however, is impossible today, because this bus can’t make it to your stop. Its next big street is blocked off. You have no choice but to get off with all the rest, but where even are you?? The bus was going this direction; you should too, right? RIGHT! Hey you know this street!

But now what? Unsure where to go next, you decide it is finally time to ask for directions. From multiple sources. You know you’re getting close, though, because everyone is selling photos and photocopies, both necessary for a visa appointment. Oh, also, you’re soaking wet. When it rains, it pours.

FINALLY, you arrive. After a few minutes of confusion regarding where to go first, someone finally points you towards the end of a line. Luckily, your expectations are low enough that the 3+ hour process doesn’t actually feel that awful. You even meet another student from the United States who is all too eager to find an English-speaking friend. If you’re lucky, you might meet a pair of Mormon missionaries, one from Idaho and one from Peru (there are Mormon missionaries in Peru, apparently). The four of you kill time sharing experiences, and finally you’re on your way.

Only now you’re confronted with a whole afternoon of other problems. For one, you just spent the last of your cash at the immigrations office. It’s ok, though, your study abroad program gives you a monthly stipend for food that should be ready to pick up today!

“Come back tomorrow.”

“…Oh. K.”

Plan B: Quick transfer on Xoom!

But you have to register for classes first. And pick up your laundry, you’re completely out of clothes and would like to shower with a towel again. You have 30 pesos left, exactly what you’ll need.

Well, exactly what you needed last time when apparently you washed fewer things. This time the Laundromat needed to use two loads, so the price is double. You can go home with half your clothes. Still, far better than none. Finally, you’re home.

You deserve a shower dammit, and some food. But you don’t have much time before you have to meet up at the bus station to buy your tickets for MENDOZAA during Easter weekend, and you still need to get money. So you shower, and you eat, and you make the transaction to get cash…

Oh, but the pick up office closes at 6. It’s 5:30.

Plan C:

Borrow money from an incredibly kind friend until tomorrow, when you will assuredly be able to procure some of your own.

The day ends well, though, and you successfully book your Easter trip. After the day’s events, this feels like one of the greatest success of your life thus far. Just one more little hiccup: on the way home, you discover that your Sube (public transportation card that gives you access to the subways and the bus system) no longer works. “Sorry, you’ll have to go to an official Sube office. Buy a temporary ticket in the mean time, five pesos please.”

Fine. Just take me home.

At least you get to fall asleep to the sounds of the storm outside. Here in Buenos Aires, when it rains, it pours.

UPDATE: For the record, today was sunny, I was able to get cash, buy a new Sube, buy books for class, AND get the rest of my laundry! Every day is different. Cada día es nuevo.

Konstanz, Deutschland »

Ecuador Study Abroad – Visiting Galápagos »

the road goes ever on… »

Last weekend, I left the Midlands. Weeeeee. It was through a uni organized trip so we got to tour around more Western-Southern England.

We traveled in a group of about 20 other international students and had a professional tour guide who was an absolute riot.

Our first stop was the shining city of Bath. The Romans built the great baths to pay homage to the city and they took baths there. We got to do audio tours because our tour guide was not allowed in. I learned so much about Bath that it’s actually ridiculous. If you want to learn about Bath, I’m your girl.

This is the great Bath. I did not drink the water though, too bad. I just want everyone to focus their attention to the scaffolding on the right of the picture. There is construction everywhere I have been so far. It is ridiculous
This is me with the Baths (no I did not take a bath there)
BUT!!!! I did run into Ally Benko!!!! The Ally Benko I worked with at Camp Matoaka this past summer. Isn’t that crazy? I was literally just sitting there watching a movie about the Baths and I looked over and saw her. She is studying abroad in London but in the whole country, who thought I would see her. I mean I didn’t even see half the people I went on the tour with. So crazy. 
Bonus: if you go to my past blog about Camp Matoaka, she is featured. 
After we toured the Baths, we were set off loose for lunch. Well because Denise and I are the absolute most indecisive people when it comes to where we eat, we just walked around the whole city centre saying no to various restaurants. But somehow made it to the river front through hidden roads staircases. 
It was a perfect photo-op. Casual location.
This was where Javert commits suicide in a tiny, super indie film called Les Mis. I’m not sure if you have heard of it. 
After spending the day in Bath/night in Bristol, we went to Glastonbury. It was a cutesy town. 
This lady apparently time traveled just to give us a tour. Bless her. Behind her is the Thorn Tree that  grew as a result of Joesph of Arimathea putting his staff down. 
King Arthur was also burried in Glastonbury! This was where he held the round table, well supposedly. Who actually knows what happened to him or if he even existed. 
I like to think he existed, movies like Avalon High need to have some value! Also, I was really into the idea of Merlin when I was younger. 

Pietro trying to find the Holy Grail. 
Our tour guide made us go on this insane hike to the Glastonbury Tor that was probably as tall as the Duomo in Florence. It was really slippery, muddy, and windy. But look at the view! It was absolutely gorgeous and totally worth it. 
But the Tor was apparently Avalon the island (AVALON HIGH!!!!) and it share the same energy lines of Stonehenge. I’m pretty sure that’s a stretch though. 
After our treacherous hike in Glastonbury, we went to Stonehenge. Usually, I would be extremely excited about visiting Stonehenge but it was raining really hard and it was cold and my socks were wet. All I really wanted was some hot cocoa. 
Since it was raining, we didn’t get the audio guides so we couldn’t really learn about the mystery that is Stonehenge. It was disappointing because we were just staring at rocks and didn’t know a lot about them besides what I learned in school and what the tour guide told us on the bus. 
But what I can tell is is the henge represents a womb and the stone a fetus– or something rather
Even though it doesn’t look like it was raining, it was borderline hailing. I’m also hiding an umbrella from this picture. This picture was very skillfully taken in the matter of .5 seconds.

Sorry Mr. Kroes for the extremely poor compisition in this picture. BUT HEY GUYS THIS IS THE STONEHENGE. 
The theory I am officially supporting is that Stonehenge was a place for healing and a place for death. I didn’t hug the blue rocks, so I’m probably sick with some sort of ailment. 
The second theory I can find some truth in is aliens. 

The Land of Beer and Fairytales »

I had the most fun traveling, getting to know the beautiful country of Germany in great detail, and experiencing all the wonderful opportunities it had to offer. I traveled all around the country and visited many different places including Neuschwanstein Schloss in Füssen (the castle Disney based Cinderella’s Castle on) and Oktoberfest in München, and have tried lots of authentically German foods including Schnitzel, Black Forest Cherry Cake from its origin town Baden Baden, and Mannheim’s own Spaghetti Eis (ice cream made to look like spaghetti).

Mannheim is a very beautiful city and I am very glad to have chosen to go there. The Wasser Turm is a key symbol of the city, and proves much more beautiful in person than in photos. And while many of the other, older building were destroyed during the war, Mannheim still amazed me with its beauty every day. The fact that I attended University in a Palace certainly helps that.

In addition to the beauty, another wonderful aspect of living in Mannheim was the transportation. Mannheim has a wonderful public transportation system consisting of Buses, Trams, and Trains that can take you anywhere you could want to go. Because Mannheim is a fairly large city, the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) is a main stop for ICE trains, essentially bullet trains, which makes going places like even easier, and much faster. It was by one of these trains that a friend and I were able to travel to Switzerland to go skydiving!

I also made a number of new friends while in Germany. With my friends I had wonderful adventures, going out onto town together and travelling. The nightlife in Mannheim is very active, and created a great opportunity for social bonding. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel abroad in Germany, and will remember this experience for the rest of my life.

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!