Finally! A new posting!!

January 4th, 2012

Okay, so I realized the other day that I basically have been on blogging vacation for a good seven months…oops.  On the other hand, I have not really had a whole lot of stuff to blog about.  I worked at a summer camp over the summer, and I spent a lot of time working on homework and my Independent Study (eek!) last semester.  That’s pretty much it.  I’ve been applying slowly but surely to various grad schools, fellowships, and internships so I have something to do next year after I graduate!  First of all, I can’t believe I’m actually going to be graduating from Wooster in May.  I am both excited and pretty scared silly about it all, cause I’m finally going to be out in the real world (gasp!).

Actually, I’m in Boston right now, which is pretty cool.  I will be conducting an interview tomorrow for my I.S. with a guy that has done significant work with interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding and conflict resolution with religious communities.  I’ll be talking to him about his work in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Which reminds me…my INDEPENDENT STUDY!  I should tell you all about it.  I’m drawing on both my disciplines (International Relations and Religious studies in case you’ve forgotten) and studying the effectiveness of interfaith dialogue in post-conflict settings.  I’m comparing three different case studies, Bosnia-Herzegovina, El Salvador, and Lebanon.

When I’m not spending every waking moment working on I.S. I am working on graduate school applications and whatnot.  I’ve decided I want to go into a Peace Studies program, so I’ve applied to four schools that have very strong peace and conflict studies programs: Notre Dame University, American University, University of Bradford (in the UK!), and Trinity College Dublin.  I’ve also applied to various internships and fellowships in the Peace Studies field so I can gain some real work experience before I go straight to graduate school.  My plan is to apply to everything now, see what happens, and make a decision based off of what happens.  It’ll be great.

I’m also pretty stoked about my schedule next semester!  I only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays (with the exception of Monday night yoga).  Granted, my first class is at 8am, but think of it, I only have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays!  I’m taking an awesome class called Global Social Entrepreneurship.  The class focuses on different entrepreneurial approaches to solving current social problems.  The class culminates in a summer field experience to Bangalore, India!  I am so excited to be able to have the chance to visit India and to work closely with an Indian nonprofit organization.  I think I would like to go into non profit work in the future, so I think this class would provide an amazing opportunity to get real experience, in addition to preparation for grad school!

Right then, I think that’s enough of an update for one night.  I’m actually pretty exhausted, and it’s only a little bit after 9pm.  Travel does funny things to you.  I need to get some rest so I can get up early and prepare for my interview!  Wish my luck!

water…water, WATER!!!!

May 12th, 2011

Well, I’ve had an interesting few weeks.  I woke up saturday morning about two weeks ago bright and early at 8:30am, ready to jump into my day and get a lot work done!  My plan was to write a paper in the morning pertaining to my vision for the future structure of the international system, and in the afternoon I was going to bake a couple of pies, and then I was going to hang out and relax with friends in the evening as a reward for a day full of hard work.  That did not happen.  I had a slow paced morning, full of lounging around and leisurely breakfast eating.  Janitors had come to clean the bathroom as usual.  “Maybe they’ll finally fix that broken toilet,” I thought to myself.  As I was about to actually get a start on my work, I heard a loud bang, lots of yelling, and the roaring sound of A LOT of water bursting out of a pipe.  More yelling ensued.  I couldn’t get out of my seat, I did not want to run into and/or get in the way of an angry maintenance worker.  Soon though, I noticed some water begin to creep under my door.  Water.  In my room.  On the floor.  Not stopping.  Crap.  It was coming in pretty quickly, so I immediately jumped up and began unplugging all electrical appliances and throwing everything that had been on our floor up onto beds and chairs.  I was at that point extremely thankful that my roommate and I had cleaned our room the other day to get ready for her parents’ visit.  Since my roommate was not in the room, I decided it would probably be a good idea to give her a call and let her know what’s going on.  I called.  I got voice-mail.  I called again.  No answer.  It took me a couple of tries, but I finally got a hold of her and pretty much begged her to come home.  At this point, water had completely flooded the third floor of the suite and was making its way downward, and out to other suites.  It was insane I tell you!  The water was coursing down the stairs like a waterfall! I bet if I had blown up the air mattress we had in our room I could have rafted around the suite. Miraculously, I still got to make my pies (mixed berry). 🙂

Anyway, long story short was, I had to move out of my room due to the extensive damage to the dry wall (not surprising considering the amount of water that flooded through the building).  So, my roommate and I are living in a hotel in down town Wooster.  It’s really interesting because I’m not upset about it.  These things happen, and frankly I don’t have the desire to waste precious time feeling angry and upset, or even stressed out about it all.  In fact, I’ve even had a lot of fun with the hotel stay.  My roommate and I have hosted several sleepovers and “Say Yes to the Dress” marathon parties.  It actually has been a lot of fun!

What I am a little sad about is the fact that several of my friends will be graduating in a few days.  I’m happy for them because they are all moving on to do wonderful, fantastic things with their lives, but it is still a little bit sad because they won’t be back at Wooster next year.  I’m also trying to come to terms with the fact that I will be a senior next year.  I knew it would go by fast, but I honestly had no idea it would go by this fast.  College is flying by faster than high school did, and that’s really sad because I’ve done so much growing and changing in college, more than I felt I did in high school at least.  It’s also daunting to think of completing my Senior IS next year.  I just finished both of my Junior IS papers as of 5pm yesterday, and it feels really really weird.  It was a challenging semester academically for me, and in a way it’s a relief that is over, but non-academically speaking I had a really really amazing year!  I got to study abroad for a semester in MOROCCO!  How many people can honestly say that they’ve done that?  And I received a truly warm welcome from my friends and professors when I returned to campus for the spring semester, and that good feeling has continued throughout the rest of the semester.

Well, it’s finals week, and I have to present my religious studies Jr. IS at 2pm, which is only in 3 hours.  Yikes!  It will be fine though.  After that I will be finished with exams!  That’s really exciting to think about (and a little bit nerve wracking), but I think I will write a blog post later in the week that will be just one long big reflection of what I have taken away with me this year.  That should be fun.  Well, I’d better start preparing for my presentation.

And Now it’s April…

April 21st, 2011

Well, I feel silly.  I made a promise to myself to write every week so that this blog doesn’t become one of those neglected blogs that sits and stagnates for months before someone remembers he or she even has a blog and writes a quick, hurried entry.  I did not want to be that person, but I’m afraid that’s what it has come to.  Every weekend I get all caught up in activities and work and I always seem to push this activity to the side, which is a shame because it has a soothing effect on my nerves.  Speaking of soothing/relaxing stuff, I just came from a massage at the Wellness Center.  Oh my goodness I needed that!  I’ve been carrying around all this tension in my back and it was nice to finally let all that tension go.  My birthday was a couple weeks ago, and it seemed like a great opportunity to schedule one of those massages that I’ve been seeing advertised in the Wooster Headline News.

Let’s see, what else besides my birthday and my massage can I write about?  I FINISHED MY INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS JUNIOR INDEPENDENT STUDY!!!!  I’m sorry, this just gives me so much joy.  It was a stressful project, it was finally really nice to be able to turn in the finished project last Friday.  I had a total of five papers t0 write this month, and I have written and turned in two of them!  Yay!  Two of the papers are due next week, so that should be interesting.  I’m currently taking a break from working on one of the papers to write this blog post. 🙂  I think one of the most important things to realize in college (and it took me a looooooong time to realize this) is that it is OKAY to take breaks and relax for a bit.  In fact, everyone NEEDS to take a break and relax from time to time.  It completely rejuvenates you and makes you way more energetic and productive instead of plugging away at half power for days on end.  Just remember, a fully charged cell phone is an incredible tool, but when your phone is only at 25% of the battery left, it becomes less useful to you because you spend to much time worrying about when it is going to die.  Be the fully charged cell phone, not the dying one.  Trust me on this, your life will be better.

What else?  I think I’ve pretty much figured out my IS topic for next year (woot!) and I met with a visiting scholar from Morocco in early April and he gave me a whole bunch of suggestions and names (with email addresses) of potentially useful people who I could possibly interview or use to obtain more information.  I’ve also figured out where I will be living next year, and what classes I will be taking.  I got a new job (super pumped) for next year, as well as a summer job, so I will no longer be completely broke!  I went to the school’s dance concert, which was wonderful, and tomorrow I’m going to go see a play called Rumors by Neil Simon.  It was an absolutely beautiful day today, I got to perform Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Chorus with the Ashland Symphony Orchestra, and I participated (unofficially) in Relay for Life.  I also attended a Passover Seder on campus, which was wonderful, I had a great time!  I’ve had a busy, yet academically challenging and mentally stimulating month. That’s good I think.  It means I haven’t been wasting my semester.  I can’t believe there are only a few more weeks left in the semester!  I will be so sad to leave this year, a lot of my friends are graduating, or studying abroad.  I’m worried that I will be lonely.  I’ve got to remember though, that at Wooster you can always make new friends and perhaps I can rekindle some of the old relationships I’ve let slide over the last year.  I really shouldn’t be worried, I’m in a good place in my life.  I live on a campus where I feel comfortable, and take classes that challenge me.  I meet people that inspire me, and more importantly, I know people here that care about me, and that is a wonderful feeling to have. 🙂

Catch Up!!

March 24th, 2011

Wow, I realized I haven’t posted anything at all whatsoever for quite some time now.  To be (sort of) fair to myself, I was quite busy with school, but I still feel that I could have made more of an effort to sit down for 30 minutes and compose a blurb about my life that I could post on the Internet for all to see.  Anyway, how’s everyone’s life going for them?  I’ve had my ups and downs these past few weeks.  The good news is that I have more or less been able to keep all my academic work up to the standards that I keep for myself.  I’ve had a few reality checks, but those are good for you, they build character (thank you Calvin and Hobbes).  It’s a little depressing, but I realized a couple weeks ago that I have five whole papers due in the month of April, including two Junior Independent Study papers.  The good news is that I have the topics and done enough research (I hope), the not so great news is that I have only written about six pages of only one of them so for the rest of the this week I have to be super productive outlining and writing bits and pieces of at least three of my papers.  I’m still in the research process on the fourth, and I can’t really start up the fifth paper until I’ve completed the third paper.  So, I’m going to have a busy month ahead of me.  Yay!

So, I’m currently on spring break!  Wooster is super cool because we get two whole weeks of spring break, which I’m highly grateful for because the first week of spring break is taken up by Chorus Tour!  Yes, Chorus Tour is always one of the highlights of the semester.  We sang five full concerts (and one mini concert) in West Chester and Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky (with the mini concert at the Presbyterian USA headquarters), Knoxville, Tennessee, and Dunwoody, Georgia.  We had a free day at the end of the week in Atlanta, which was amazing because it was 80 degrees and blindingly sunny!  I went to the zoo and fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of seeing a real live Giant Panda (actually I saw three, including a baby!!!), and then I went to the aquarium, which was really cool, minus the scary sharks.  I’m absolutely terrified of sharks and most fresh water fish, and all those crazy alien-like fish that live at the very bottom of the sea, but mostly I think I’m the most scared of sharks.  The only sharks I’m okay with are the whale sharks because they look like whales and don’t have three rows of razor sharp teeth.  I also got to visit in the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center where there was a big exhibit of Keith Haring’s work.  I also got to run around the Louisville Science Center, where they had a massive Star Trek exhibit, which satisfied the geek within me.  I also learned that the Creation Science Museum is not too far from where we were, which as a Religious Studies major, I was kind of interested in going to just to see what they had, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay admission that is used to tell children that evolution is “bad science” and lies.  FYI: you can get a pretty good idea of what this museum has to offer through their website.  All in all, the Chorus Tour is a wonderful experience that brings everyone closer together, and I’m so happy that I have had the chance to go on this adventure for the last three years!

So, what am I looking forward to next???  Well, next week the college’s GCLA Global Alliance visitor, Said Ennahid from Morocco 🙂 will be on campus, and I get to attend a reception and dinner with him on Wednesday, and a one-on-one conversation with him on Friday!  I’m so excited to have this opportunity.  I will have to spend some time preparing for his visit, but don’t worry, I will definitely find time to tell you about this!  Hopefully I will not have  (less than two weeks away)!!  I’m quite excited about that.  I love birthdays! It actually has given me motivation to get one of my papers done because it is due the day after my birthday, but there’s no way I want to be stuck working on something like that on my birthday, so I’ve gotta get it done!  Yay motivation!

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day.  I’m spending this second week of spring break at my grandparent’s house in western Ohio, and I’m currently sitting in the public library because my grandparents do not have Internet at their house.  It’s almost uncomfortably warm in here, and I’m thinking I should head home soon.  A good brisk walk in chilly, albeit sunny weather is just what I need I think.  I’ve been working on homework as well, and when I get back I think I’ll continue with that for a little while before taking a break to watch something on the Turner Classic Movie Channel with my grandparents, and maybe drink a cup of hot tea.  Cheers to that!

Let it Snow!

February 6th, 2011

Let’s see, what did I do this week?  Well, I went to class, and I generally find my classes pretty intellectually stimulating, which is a good thing.  I went to my extra-curricular activities, which are always nice and relaxing.  I did some research for a few papers I will be cranking out in the near future.  I slept in until today until 11am, which was awesome!  It was probably the first time in months that I have really slept in at all.  So, all in all, it seems like a pretty normal week, one that would be forever filed away in my brain as one of those “uneventful” weeks, except for one thing…..

SNOW DAY!!!!  Last Wednesday, for the first time in years (4 years I think) the college was closed for a snow day!  Basically, it’s been snowy and gross all week.  Monday night as I was leaving the library to return to my dorm I slid/fell down the outside steps.  There was some weird precipitation going on outside.  It was a weird cross between rain and sleet, and I didn’t see how slippery the stairs were, so I started to slide, and I grabbed the railing for balance, but that too was covered in a sheet of ice, so I just slid down to the bottoms of the stairs, a little bit jostled, but none the worse for wear.  Tuesday the ice started to really accumulate everywhere and all the students (and some of the professors I’m sure) were starting to have hopeful “maybe we’ll get a snow day” thoughts in their brains.  The Wooster City schools had called a snow day, so we were all hoping. My sisters back home in Vermont were told Tuesday afternoon that their schools would be closed on Wednesday, so I figured that if Vermonters were calling preemptive snow days than what was stopping Wooster from canceling school?

Sooooo, on Wednesday morning (quite early I might add) I get an auto-call from the school canceling all classes!!  Yay!  What now do I do with my day off?  Well, for starters, I watched some television obviously, and then decided to actually be productive.  I had a whole day off from not only classes, but extra-curricular commitments, so why not use my free day to say, get ahead?  So yes, I’m not sure if I really “got ahead” in any of my classes, but I did spend a significant portion of my day researching for some papers that are due soon.  It really wasn’t that bad, I sort of like doing research, I mean that was basically my job for a whole year.  Additionally, I studied/researched with friends, which made the time spent much more pleasant.  Alright.  It is time for me to wrap up, and go work on a short paper for my International Political Economy paper, which has an amusing Simpson’s-based prompt for me to work with, so it should be fun, and it only has to be 5 pages (max!).

P.S.  Next week I should have some cool stuff to write about since I’ll be attending a summit called “Food for Thought” which deals with food politics and sustainable agriculture.  Should be awesome!

Wow, I’m Actually back in Wooster

February 1st, 2011

Honestly, I still can’t believe I’m back in the United States, let along Wooster, Ohio.  My first few days on campus were probably some of the most exhilarating days of my life as I greeted all my friends, barraging them with stories about Morocco and Europe, and receiving quite a few surprises from them.  A lot had happened last semester!  I’m living in Luce Hall in the French language suite, which I like very much.  In order to live in the French suite I had to promise to speak only French in all the public spaces, and participate in the weekly activities hosted by the suite and our Parisian language assistant.  It’s an interesting experience, not because I have to speak French, but because I’ve never lived on the south end of campus before and I feel rather far away from everything, except Morgan Hall.  I like being close to Morgan Hall because my first class of the day is in that building and I enjoy the quick walk to class in the mornings, especially when it’s a bit chilly outside, like it is right now.  Speaking of cold weather, all we’ve seen here for the last day and a half is sleet and freezing rain.  The Wooster public schools were closed today.  The college students alas, were not as lucky.  As the weather continues to worsen, we are all hoping (and possibly praying) for canceled classes or an honest-to-goodness snow day, a rare occurrence for any college campus.  This bad weather is heading east as well, I just talked to my sister in Vermont, and she already knows she and my other sister will not have school tomorrow.  Lucky girls.

Classes are going well, I think.  I jumped right in to two Junior IS classes, one for each major, a class called Nationalism and Interdependence, and a class called International Political Economy.  Needless to say, if I ever complain about not having anything to do this semester, call me out on it, cause I’m totally lying.  There’s always (home)work to be done!  I’m doing a few different extra curricular activities than I have been doing in the past.  I’ve decided to go to Superfit Aerobics  and Zumba classes at the gym whenever possible.  I found I had too much leftover energy at the end of the day here because I was not walking great distances to get anywhere like I was in Morocco.  The exercise has helped me sleep at night, thank goodness.  I’m also still singing in the Wooster Chorus, which is just as fun as ever, although I was disappointed in how rusty my sight reading skills have gotten while abroad!

There are so many new faces on campus too!  When I walked into the Lowry dining hall the first night I got back I didn’t recognize anyone!  That has been hard.  By now everyone else has gotten used to all the new freshman except all the students who were abroad last semester.  We are still trying to wrap our heads around the huge population explosion.  Additionally, little things have changed.  Walls are painted different colors, there’s new furniture in some parts of the library, and there are different dining options and policies on campus that were not in place last year.  It will take some getting used to.  Reintegration sessions with the Office of Off-Campus Study and the Lilly House have been very helpful in helping all of us readjust to being on campus.  To be honest, putting all this down in a blog (or journal, or both) also helps a lot.  It also is a nice alternative to the pile of homework I still have left to do.  Alright, I think that I will have to wrap up for now.  Unfortunately nothing really novel has happened to me this semester, which is just fine by me, it just doesn’t make for really interesting blog entries.  I highly doubt anyone wants to read a blow by blow account of any of the last three weeks of my life.  Although today I did hear some pretty interesting Senior IS presentations, and I talked with a fellow student at length about trains, their merits and drawbacks, and the relative superiority of European trains to American ones.  Those were probably the highlights of my day.  OK, now I really have to leave, I still have a paper to research for, and I’m currently obsessed with the current upheavals in the Middle East (surprise surprise) so I’m constantly checking the NY Times and BBC websites.  I know it’s weird, but I sort of wish I was back in the region.  It would be SO interesting (and probably scary) to see these events unfold literally in front of my eyes.

Beautiful Berlin

January 16th, 2011

Wow, it’s a little bit late to be writing about Berlin, but better late than never, as clichéd as that sounds.  I’m mean, I’m writing this post from  my dorm room in Wooster.  Classes start tomorrow!  It has been so great seeing everyone!  I’ve really missed my friends at Wooster, and it has been so nice catching up with everyone.

So, Berlin…well, it’s a totally cool city with a very dynamic history.  I took a night train from Vienna to Berlin.  I met a very nice Viennese girl and we had breakfast together at the train station the next morning.  I also got up close and personal with some Russians in the train compartment.  There wasn’t a lot of leg room, and I woke up at 2am with one of their bare feet on my lap.  Fun times, but after they got of the train in Prague, I had a whole six hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep sprawled across three train seats.

Getting to my hostel from the train station was pretty straightforward.  I took the M41 bus to Willy Brandt Haus, walked across a river, turned right until I came to Grand Hostel Berlin.  It was a beautiful old building.  It had a very formal and proper feel to it, and I could tell that I probably wouldn’t be meeting a whole lot of people in the evenings, which was fine because I was meeting another fellow Wooster classmate later.  Since my room wasn’t exactly ready for me when I checked in that morning, I stowed my luggage and headed for the Brandenburg Gates where they give free walking tours around the city.

The walking tour was great.  I had a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.  We walked all over the city, and saw so much stuff.  Hitler’s secret underground bunker (now a parking lot) was on the tour as well as the Berlin Dome, and the Berlin Wall.  Most of the wall is gone, but there’s a cobblestone line that runs where the wall used to stand.  It’s really interesting to walk around the city and see the line going through the sidewalk or street.  Twenty years ago, there would have been a very real, neigh uncrossable barrier, and now you can move freely about the city.  It was bitter cold, so I was slightly relieved when the tour ended and I could hope on a train that could take me back to my hostel.

When I got back, I lugged my suitcase up to the fourth floor, and opened my room door to find a girl fast asleep in one of the beds.  Positive all the noise I was making would wake her, I hurriedly unpacked my stuff and went to shower.  The showers were a little bit annoying because they were motion activated, so they didn’t start until you stepped in the shower, and they would turn off in the middle, and you would have to jump around to get the water to turn back on.  When I returned, my roommate was up and we got to talking.  She was from New Zealand and was currently in the process of changing her major basically.  We sat down for dinner and actually wound up talking about Greek life in American universities, because New Zealand doesn’t have anything like it, and it fascinates them.  While we were talking my friend from Wooster arrived.  It was great to see her!  She was studying in Oxford, England for the entire year, so this was the only time I would get to see her before I went back to the states for a second semester.

The next day we all headed to museum island, a literal island in the middle of the city, with five museums built on it.  We got a pass to all five museums for 7 Euro (student price).  We made it to four.  It was so neat, we got to see architecture from all over the ancient world.  I saw Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Islamic, European, and Stone Age artifacts.  I even got to see the bust of Nefertiti, which was beautiful.  Unfortunately I have no pictures because cameras were strictly verboten in the room where the bust was kept, like when you go to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  All in all, a very cool day.  I was a bit museum-ed out, but who wouldn’t be after running around four large museums. 🙂  It was sad to leave Berlin the next day.  Not only was I not going to see my friend for another semester, but I would be returning to the USA in a matter of days.  In fact, when I got back to Stuttgart, I only had one day to pack before flying back to the USA.  Crazy.  My overseas adventure was drawing quickly to a close and it was sad.  My depression was mitigated by the fact that in my heart, I knew I would be back.  I am definitely going back to Morocco, I mean, I haven’t seen Marrakesh or Casablanca yet!  Travel to Europe is almost guaranteed as well since I have family there.  I was excited to see all my friends and family whom I haven’t seen in months.  That’s the one good thing about leaving.  I get to see the people I love and care about again.  I get to hear their stories, and share my own.  I get to laugh with them, cry with them, go see movies and concerts and study until 2am with them.  I’m ready for another semester at Wooster.  I’ll have my experiences to fall back on when the going gets tough, but because of my experiences in Morocco, I know I can handle the obstacles I will face back here in good ol’ Wooster.

Viva Vienna!

January 7th, 2011

Let me tell you something.  Vienna is an extremely beautiful city.  The architecture of the buildings in the old part of the city is magnificent.  One can easily imagine the grandeur and prestige of the city during the time of the Hapsburg’s reign.  I arrived in Vienna in the afternoon of the 2nd of January, all alone.  I had planned to meet some people in the city, but you know, some things come up unexpectedly and don’t necessarily work the way you want them to.  So, I had to find my way to my hostel on my own, which turned out to be fairly simple.  The hostel advertises its proximity to the Wien Westbahnhof (the main train station in Vienna), and it is true.  It is a short 15-minute walk from the train station.  So, I had never actually stayed in a hostel before.  I was really interested to see what it would be like.  I was sharing a room with three other girls.  There were two sets of wooden bunk beds in my room, with four lockers for our things, a small desk in the corner, and a bathroom en suite, which was pretty handy I must say.  The hostel gave me clean sheets for the bed, a room and locker key, and a free drink slip for the bar on the first floor.  That’s cool.  I keep forgetting that in Europe I can drink legally.  It’s the strangest thing to go up to a bar and order a beer, and get one with no questions asked.  They don’t even card here.  So, I met my three roommates.  They were all from Genoa, Italy and were traveling together for their holiday break.  They were a couple of years younger than me, still in high school, so I was quite impressed that their parents let them go off by themselves to another country.  However, traveling around Europe is like traveling between states in the USA, so maybe it’s not as big of a deal.  All I know is that I probably would not have been allowed to run around unsupervised in a foreign country had I still been in high school.  I had some time to kill obviously, since I arrived in the early afternoon.  I used that time to just settle in and get a grasp on my whole situation, as well as plan my excursions for the next two days.  I also updated my personal journal, not to mention this blog.  When my roommates came back around dinnertime I hung out and talked to them a little bit.  Their English was pretty good; it was certainly a million times better than my Italian.  They were very sweet, but they had to get up really early to fly back to Genoa the next day, so they were headed to be early.  What was I to do?  I think it was time that I cashed in my free drink slip.

I went downstairs to the bar.  I’m not sure if every hostel has a bar, but this one did, as well as free Wifi on the ground floor.  So I got my drink and sat down awkwardly at the same table with a girl who was busy reading a book.  I’m a fairly shy person, and I everyone down in the bar seemed to be well into his or her own conversations, and I didn’t feel like it was right to intrude.  What I learned from this experience, and what future travelers should take away from this is that hostel-stayers like meeting new people.  Many of them don’t know anyone else either, and it is completely appropriate to ask if you can sit with them at a table.  Eventually, the girl with the book looked up at me as asked, “Do you speak English?” in an American accent.  I replied, “yeah of course I do,” and this girl goes “Great!  Let me move closer to you.” and we got to talking.  I learned that she’s from Philadelphia and spent the past semester abroad in London, and that she was going to spend a second semester in St. Petersburg, Russia.  We are also both double majors in International Relations (Studies for her) and something else.  So we sat and swapped study abroad stories until two guys asked to sit at our table as well.  Of course we said yes.  These two guys were from Norway and were traveling in Europe during their semester break.  I continued to meet many interesting new people throughout the night.  I met people from Russia, Poland, Brazil, Australia, and the Netherlands.  There were young people from all over the world, and it was really amazing how well everyone seemed to be getting along.  It was just really cool meeting people from so many different places, and of course sharing our stories and just having fun and hanging out.  It was a very satisfying first night.

The next day I got up, got breakfast, and set off on my first journey through Vienna!  I took the subway to the Stephenplatz, the center of the old city.  My first stop was St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  It is such a beautiful, old Gothic cathedral, and apparently it has never been quite finished.  They’re still working on it to this day.  The scaffolding is cleverly concealed behind a canvas painted to look like the side of the church.  The inside is very beautiful, and they still had green fir trees and the crèche, left over from Christmas.  I decided to spring for the extra tour of the catacombs underneath the church.  Down in the catacombs, I saw the bishops’ crypts, and stood next to the coffins (directly next to them, I think my pants brushed up against one) of dead members of the Hapsburg family.  Since their bodies were embalmed, their internal organs are removed and placed in copper vats, which were also on display in front of me.  There are also mass graves for victims of the black plague in the catacombs.  You can look into these rooms and they are all filled to the brim with human bones.  It’s “slightly” creepy, especially with the dim light, cold stone walls, and low ceilings.  I would have taken pictures, but they were strictly “verboten” (forbidden in German).

After the cathedral, I went off to find Mozart’s house.  Yes that’s right, I found Mozart’s house, or one of them, since if I remember correctly, he had about 13 different apartments during his time in Vienna.  It was pretty cool.  There were a lot of primary documents from his life on display in the apartment.  I had my nifty little English language recorded tour device pressed up against my ear.  That was pretty cool.  After that I did a little walking, just to see some more of the city, and also to look for an authentic, traditional Viennese coffee house for lunch.  I found the Viennese coffee house.  It was lavishly decorated with lovely furniture, with stucco walls, and crystal chandeliers.  I bought the most expensive cup of coffee I have ever had in my life (almost 8 Euros), but it was so worth it because it was delicious.  I also decided to try a traditional Austrian cream of pumpkin soup.  It was great soup.  I would definitely be up for eating that stuff a second time.  After that I went back to my hostel to rest up and change because I was going to try to go to the opera.  I said try because I was planning to buy “standing room only” tickets and there’s no telling how fast they may sell out.  Anyway, the train broke down as I was trying to get to the opera, so I arrived about 20 minutes late, and I later found out it was only a 50-minute opera, so I basically missed half of it.  I also couldn’t see the stage because I was standing behind many people.  I had a wonderful view of the orchestra pit and the audience though, and of course there wasn’t anything blocking my ears from hearing the opera.  The Vienna opera house is gorgeous!  I’m just saying that because it is, and everyone in the audience was all dressed up and it looked so old fashioned.  I’m such a sucker for old-fashioned stuff, especially when it involves the intrigues of European aristocratic lifestyle.  I was totally into it.   I loved seeing the men in tuxedos and women in lovely dresses.  I was not dressed to the nines, but I was standing with the “rabble” in probably the worst spot in the entire house.

So the opera finished around 7:30pm, and since I hadn’t had dinner I went back to the hostel to get dinner at the bar.  Not only did I see most of the same people I met the night before, but also I got to meet even more cool people.  I met people from Portugal, Thailand, Ireland, Turkey, South Korea, more Australians and New Zealanders.  I didn’t sleep much that night.

So, today, I had to get up and check out by 10am since I am leaving for Berlin on a night train.  The hostel lets you store your luggage if you’ve checked out but aren’t ready to leave the city, so I did that and headed off to the Schloß Schönbrunn, the palace of the Austrian Imperial Royal family.  It was very beautiful, and again, I wasn’t allowed to take picture of the interior rooms L.  So I was content to just wander through the beautifully decorated palace in much the same way I wander around Mozart’s house, with my little recorded audio tour pressed against my ear.  I spent the rest of the day just wandering around the city and seeing if there were any free museums (nope).  I’m so happy I decided to come to Vienna, and I was really happy that I was able to handle subway stuff and directions and maps and food all with minimal stress and problems.  It was a wonderful adventure; I can’t wait to continue the adventure in Berlin!

Christmas, Austria, Skiing, and New Year’s Eve!

January 3rd, 2011

So, I’m awfully sorry I haven’t written a post is such a long time.  Truth be told, I’ve been on vacation with my uncle and his family, and where we were vacationing, WIFI cost money.  It really wasn’t worth it for me.  I spent a very wonderful Christmas with my Uncle, Aunt, and two cousins.  We celebrated on the 24th, Christmas Eve, just like real Europeans!  That was because we were planning to leave for Ischgl, Austria on Christmas Day, where we would be skiing, skiing, and skiing with another two families, who were really nice!  Both of these other families were half German, half American, and one of the families lived in Abu Dhabi during the year!!!  Actually, the daughter of the family from Abu Dhabi went to high school with one of my brother’s friends who’d moved to the UAE last year!  Can you say small world!

Anyway, I am so grateful to my Uncle and Aunt for taking me skiing with them, for helping me rent equipment and arranging for me to have skiing lessons.  They even got me Christmas presents, which touched me very deeply.  I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be celebrating Christmas quite late with my family this year, but I even got a stocking on the 24th and opened many presents alongside my cousins!  It was probably one of the best Christmases ever!  I don’t know if I’ve already said this, but Christmas in Germany is great.  Why?  The Christmas Markets and Gluhwein.  They don’t seem to be worried so much about political correctness over here, which is refreshing.  For example, nobody insinuates a “War on Christmas” because someone wishes him or her “Happy Holidays” and nobody gets offended from a “Merry Christmas” either.  At least, that is my observation.  I could be completely wrong because I’ve barely spend one month in Europe in total, and a good 10 days of that were back in August before I went to Morocco.

Where was I?  Oh yes, Ischgl.  It’s a cute little ski town in the Austrian Alps.  It seems to be comprised entirely of hotels, and during the day the streets are completely packed with people schlepping skis, poles, snowboards, helmets, and any other winter sport equipment.  One of my favorite parts of the day is the gondola ride over the mountains every day.  You get in a little gondola, put your skis outside the pod in a special ski holder, and you get pulled up and over the mountain to the top of another mountain where all the skiing is.  One important thing I learned, Alpine skiing is very hard on the body.  I could barely walk at the end of my 5-day ski school.  Every part of my lower body ached as well as parts of my upper body from poling around the flat parts of the ski area.  As someone who’s only ever done Nordic skiing, Alpine was a little scary.  It is especially scary if you are someone like me who is both scared of heights and of going really fast.  Unfortunately there are a lot of high places when you’re on a mountain, and gravity tends to make you go fast.  However, I learned to face my fears (a little bit) and managed to make it down several mountains without falling (too many times).  Let me tell you, you feel quite proud of yourself when you reach the bottom of a run.  I’ve also learned to love chair lifts, and hate T-bar lifts, which I cannot seem to get off of smoothly.  I usually end up falling down.  A T-bar lift looks like an upside-down T and two people stand next to each other, and the T-bar comes behind them and pulls them both up the mountain.  Your skis remain firmly on the ground too.  You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to get off of, but trust me it is.  Even my Uncle, who’s an experienced skier, hates the T-bar.

One of the coolest things I did last week was go sledding…down a mountain.  It was 7km of tobogganing down a mountain.  It was so cool!  It was definitely the longest sled ride I’ve ever been on.  You ride a gondola up the mountain; you then get a sled at the top, and then head on down.  The path is full of twists, turns, bumps and ditches.  There was one spot where it was so steep I slid down on my butt, holding the sled beside me.  I wasn’t in the mood for another hospital visit.  Additionally, I was the only girl from our group who went sledding, so I could pretty much count on one of the guys to have some glorious sledding story to tell, and I could sit in the corner and listen with much amusement as they recount the thoughts that went through their head as they flew through the air after their sled hit a bump.

Another cool thing is Europe is New Year’s Eve.  It’s crazy man!!  People start to party in the early afternoon, and everyone and his mother get their own fireworks and shoot them off in their back yards.  I must have watched three or four different amateur firework shows as well as the official town fireworks from the balcony of one of our apartments.  I did get nervous at one point as a bunch of drunken German-speaking peoples started lighting fireworks right under our balcony, and then they would light fire crackers and throw them at each other, real smart don’t ya think?  It was still a really cool way to usher in 2011.  I can’t believe it is already 2011 already!  Where does the time go!!!

So, now that leaves me off where I am now.  I took a train early this morning from Landeck to Vienna.  Now I’m sitting here in a hostel in Vienna.  I have three very nice roommates from Genoa, Italy.  They’re leaving tomorrow morning though, so I won’t have gotten to spend a whole lot of time with them.  I was supposed to meet a friend, but circumstances didn’t work out and she couldn’t end up meeting me.  So, I have planned out an entire two days full of cool stuff to do.  I’m going to go see St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Mozart’s house.  I’m also going to see if I can go to see an opera for 2 Euro.  Sound like fun?  I think it does!  Then the next day I’m going to see the Palace and then take a night train to Berlin to meet another friend!  Woot!  This is going to be a pretty cool week I think.  Some things didn’t work out exactly as I had planned, but that’s okay.  It’s all part of being flexible, of going with the flow, like I learned in Morocco.  That’s a country where flexibility is key!  In Europe things are a little timelier, but it’s still important to be flexible and to have a good outlook on life, especially if you’re a poor college student traveling around Europe!  Alright, I will go now so I can eat dinner, and prepare for my excellent adventures in the days to come!

B’sslama Morocco…Willkommen in Deutschland

December 21st, 2010

So, I have officially left Morocco and am currently sitting on my bed at my uncle’s house in Germany.  It was an emotional last few days in the Maghreb.  Everyone was busy taking final exams and writing final papers.  I know I was.  I spent all weekend studying for four finals and writing two term papers.  I’ve never had this much fun ever.  I’m totally kidding.  It was a pretty tough way to spend the last week in an amazing country.  I wanted to be out and about in the city, not stuck in my room writing a paper.  Well, all my finals went well, my Arabic professor brought us cake and tea, which was delicious!  I got all my term papers written and turned in on time l’humdullah, and I got all my shopping and gift buying finished.  On Thursday, our last day, we spent the morning in a re-integration seminar.  A bunch of us did presentations about various topics.  The only two boys that were in our group gave a power point presentation that documented our semester pictorially and reflectively.  Myself and the three other girls that interned at Transparency Maroc presented about our work at the organization, and the advanced Arabic students gave a presentation about Morocco, in Arabic.  I could understand a portion of what they were saying, which made me happy.  🙂

That afternoon we were bused to Agdal to do some glass painting and oriental dancing.  It was really really fun.  We painted little tea-lite holders and learned a nice little oriental dance routine.  The teacher even had little scarves that we could tie around our wastes like real dancers.  It was fun seeing all the girls get dressed up.  Afterward it was time to go relax and chill out before our farewell dinner.  Everyone showed up at the farewell dinner dressed to the nines…at least, as dressed up as we could be with a limited wardrobe selection.  It was emotional.  It’s hard to write about it, I’m not sure I can accurately describe the mix of emotions that was running through every-one’s hearts.  All 19 of us had been through so many trials and tribulations together.  We got each other through some pretty tough situations, whether it was dealing with culture shock and homesickness, to actual miserable illnesses that involved hospital visits and powdery medication.  We also were there during all the wonderful, amazing things as well.  We were all together at the top of a mountain in the Mid-Atlas and rode for two hours in the Sahara desert on camel back.  We went to Spain together, and walked to class together, and ate couscous at each others houses.  We became different people together.  I think that we’re all more open-minded and flexible because of our experience.  I’m sure each person’s experience was different, but I think that one thing we will have in common is that we’ll be able to all relate to each others stories and experiences as we undergo re-integration into American culture.

The last week of IES Rabat was an emotional one.  The biggest topic of conversation seemed to be what people were going to do when they got back state-side.  “What are you going to do the minute you get off the plane?” “What food are you most looking forward to eating?” “Who are you most anxious to see when you get back?”  Questions like these were frequently discussed amongst us while we were supposed to be studying for finals.  While those were certainly questions that are fun to discuss, I was hesitant, because I did not fly immediately to the United States.  I’m spending Christmas with my uncle and his family in Stuttgart, Germany and then will be traveling around Europe for a few weeks before returning to the States.  I tried not to think about “home” too much because I knew that “home” for me was still three weeks away.  Although I’m super excited and grateful to have this opportunity to do some traveling around Europe, it was really hard to hear my friends talk about going home when I knew I would have to wait a few more weeks before I could talk to my dad face to face or hug my mom.

All that emotional stuff aside, my traveling day went pretty smoothly.  My luggage was miraculously underweight, I got to the airport in time to discover my flight would be leaving at 6:50am and not 7:50am, which ended up being better because I was on the same flight with some of my friends from the program.  We separated at the airport in Paris where my flight to Frankfurt was only delayed 30 minutes.  I got to Frankfurt and ran to the train station, getting there just in time for my train, only to learn that my train from Frankfurt to Stuttgart would be delayed 50 minutes.  That train ride went smoothly after that, all my breakable stuff that I had in my luggage all remained in one piece, l’humdullah!  I arrived in Stuttgart without suffering any major setback or hassle.  Some of my friends weren’t so lucky.  I had a friend who left Rabat a full 24 hours before I did and as of 7pm last night (Monday) hadn’t managed to leave the Paris airport because of various delays and scheduling and other nonsense.

All throughout my stay in Morocco I was never so sick it required a hospital visit (l’humdullah), but since I’ve been in Germany, I have been at the hospital every single day.  I guess I was bitten by a bug in Morocco, and it got all swollen and infected when I was traveling, so the next day my uncle took me to a German ER to get it looked at.  They lanced the infection to drain all the gross stuff out, packed the small hole with gauze and wrapped up my leg and told me not to walk on it.  I’ve been back every day since then to get the dressing changed.  They told me it looks good.  I still cannot get over the fact that I have a small hole in my leg.  Today they didn’t repack the hole, they just put a bandage and ointment on it and sent me home.  I have to go back tomorrow to get it looked at, and that should be the last time, hopefully.  So it’s been an interesting experience so far.  Willkommen in Deutschland right?

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