Archive for the 'Holidays' Category

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!

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!

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?

While you were eating Turkey…

November 27th, 2010

So, while all my lovely friends and family in the United States were eating way too much turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, I was sitting in class like I do every Thursday here.  I got up at 6:45am, ate breakfast, walked 25 minutes to school for Arabic at 8am, and the day progressed as normal from there.  However, today was different because after my class entitled “Gender and Society in North African and Beyond”, I drove over to Hay Riad (a neighborhood of Rabat) with my classmates from my “Managing Communications in Arab Organizations” to our professor’s house for tea.  Our communications professor has a beautiful house, and she had laid out a glorious spread of sweets, juices, and tea.  There were probably at least 15 different kinds of cookies and sweets, including a very delicious cake that her daughter had made for us.  We drank freshly squeezed mango juice and Moroccan tea with just a hint of jasmine, which was lovely.  I really love the smell of jasmine, and last year during one of my late night study sessions I found out that I really liked jasmine tea, so I was quite pleased with this arrangement.

Anyway, after tea we headed over to an art exhibit by Rachid Sebti (see a short biography here) that was being sponsored by the Fondation CDG (Caisse de Depot et de Gestion).  Our communications professor seems to know a lot of really important people in Rabat, and she also seems to know where they all hang out.  This gallery was the perfect example.  As we were arriving she points to a man leaving the exhibit exclaiming “Oh girls that was the Minister of Culture!”  Yes, high level members of the Moroccan government hang out at these events.  Additionally, we met a very famous Moroccan architect and a Moroccan movie actor whose names I sadly cannot recall.  I was more excited to actually meet and shake hands with Fatema Mernissi whose novel Dreams of Trespass and book The Veil and the Male Elite, I had read excerpts of in my Gender and Society class.  She is a very famous Moroccan author and feminist and it was so cool to actually meet her in person, my classmates and I were just giddy!

Last bit of exciting news, while we were there, who should arrive but the American ambassador and his wife!  Yes, we were awestruck, it was so exciting.  We went over and talked to them for a little bit, chatting about our school, Thanksgiving, and Morocco.  It was very nice, and all these Moroccan journalists were snapping pictures of us and I’m pretty sure these pictures will be published in a magazine fairly shortly!  I will have to start checking out the kiosks to see if I can find the magazine the pictures are published it. 🙂

So all in all, it was a very satisfying (albeit unorthodox) Thanksgiving day.  I think that if I can’t be with my family eating food all day long, than meeting famous people and high level political figures might just be the next best thing.

Thanksgiving-Moroccan Style

November 25th, 2010

First of all, I just want to wish everyone in the United States a very Happy Thanksgiving!!  Thanksgiving is probably my very favorite holiday, scoring well above Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc.  For one, I get to eat as much pie as I want, and pie (at least my mother’s) is my favorite dessert.  My mother makes all the pies Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so the holiday for me at least, seems to start a day earlier, which is great!  In addition, I get to eat all the other “traditional” Thanksgiving foods that we usually only have at this time of year.  Cranberry sauce is probably the best example of this.  In the past, we’ve had three different types of cranberry sauce, the jellied kind you get from the can, a homemade sauce with whole cranberries and other yummy spices, and a cranberry/orange relish which is the best when you eat it on oatmeal the day after.  Also, Thanksgiving is the one holiday where my family travels to be with our extended family.  We don’t live extremely close to any of our relatives, so it is extra special when we do travel to see them for Thanksgiving.  My cousins and I usually have a blast camping out on the floor in their basement all week.  🙂  Since I’ve come to Wooster, I’ve spent the holiday with the other side of my family who actually lives in Ohio, while my immediate family spends the holidays with family in New England.  Either way, I’m surrounded by people whom I love, and only get to see at certain times of the year; I’m eating a whole ton of delicious food, and reflecting on everything that’s happened to me over the year, and all the things I have that I should be thankful for.  This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

So this year, I’m in Morocco for Thanksgiving, which is not celebrated in Morocco.  What do I do???  Well, our program director coordinated a Thanksgiving potluck dinner on Wednesday night for all the students of my program.  Each person was asked to bring one dish.  I brought garlic mashed potatoes.  Yummy.  Not my most favorite Thanksgiving food, but it is easy to make and the ingredients are easy to find in Morocco.   So, Wednesday morning between classes I did a bunch of shopping for all my ingredients, including 3 kilos of potatoes.  I had to bring enough for 19 students, plus guests, so I figured it was better to make too much, and have leftovers than to not make enough.  Anyway, there was quite a spread yesterday evening.  There was a huge 9 kilo turkey, prepared Moroccan-style with lots of olives, different potato and vegetable dishes, macaroni and cheese, Moroccan salad, salsa and guacamole, cheese and crackers, fruit salads, deviled eggs, cakes, ice cream, pumpkin cheesecake, and Oreo cookies.  I brought my host mother with me, since she helped me make the potatoes.  She doesn’t speak English or French, but fortunately, many of the professors were there and she could speak in Arabic with them.  My friends could also introduce themselves to her, which was nice.  I hope she enjoyed an American Thanksgiving.  I wonder if her experience was similar to my experiences here in Morocco.  In Morocco I encountered new foods, a new way of eating, even a new attitude about food.  I would imagine her experience was at least a little bit similar to mine, with some of the foods, or even not being able to understand the majority of the conversations that are going on around her.

All in all though, it was a great Thanksgiving dinner.  I am really thankful that our program staff made such a tremendous effort to make sure that we had a nice Thanksgiving experience away from home.  Tonight I’ll talk to my family in the United States, and wish them well.  I don’t feel as if I’ve really missed out on this holiday at all, despite the fact that I’m thousands of miles from home.  I’ve got so much to be thankful for.  I’m here in Morocco having an absolutely amazing experience for one thing.  I love school and can’t believe I have such good friends there.  My family has been so supportive of all the decisions I’ve made over the last few years, and I feel confident in myself and am extremely optimistic about my future.  So, even though I’m missing the big Thanksgiving feast, I don’t think I’ve missed out on the real purpose of Thanksgiving.  In fact, I think this year I’ve understood what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about even better than when I’m back at home eating squash and pumpkin pie.