Busting the Stereotypes

After strolling around for almost 2 months in the Russian Federation, I have learned so much about cultural differences. I have seen things that I never would have imagined I would witness here in Russia, and I would love to share these “stereotype-busters” with you in this post.

1. Russia does not have year-long winter: “You are studying abroad in Russia?! You will have to wear your winter coat ALL summer!”

While it may seem that almost every American film set in Russia involves freezing weather and fur coats and hats, brutal cold is not the only temperature. Sunshine does exist: I have seen beaches and people sunbathing in parks. There are fountains here that children play in and adults run through. On sunny days, my phonetics professor actually teaches our class outside on the green lawn!

Beach in Russia

They have beaches in Russia?!

To be completely honest, the weather is a little odd. The rain and wind here can get pretty funky. My host mom just informed me that there was a small tornado in St. Petersburg yesterday, and she said it was the first time ever. (This is also the record coldest summer since 1948, which is unfortunately ironic.) Nevertheless, even during an unusually windy and chilly summer, sunburns and sweat are still very much a reality.

 

2. I haven’t seen any bears roaming about in Russia. I haven’t even seen a pet bear on a leash. But I have seen stray dogs and more pigeons than I would ever like to see. And I have also seen pet monkeys in outfits and raccoons on leashes. Go figure.

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This lil guy actually has an owner, but he was strolling about campus today and interrupted our last outdoor phonetics class.

 

3. All Russians are not as “serious” as one might have thought. Humor is a huge part of life here, and it is enjoyable to catch silly moments on the metro or marshrytka (like when an elderly woman starts laughing hysterically and blessing you repeatedly because she fell onto your lap during a sharp turn …or when it starts raining out of nowhere and the wind blows your umbrella inside-out and an elderly man finds it to be absolutely hysterical). Actually, a lot of these LOL moments happen at home. I woke up the other morning to some Russians teenagers singing “Hakuna Matata” outside my window.

And the other week, I bought a purse during a huge sale at the mall, and my host mom liked it so much that she went out and bought the same purse in a different color …and could not wait to tell me about it. Now she enjoys telling me “good job” every time I take it with me out the door in the morning.

And sometimes, when she knows I have been to the mall, she will ask me if I saw any good deals.

SUPER AMERICAN SANDWICH

“Super American Sandwich”… Russian humor at its finest.

 

4. Fastfood is better abroad. There is just something about sitting in a Burger King with a ceiling fit for a cathedral and biting into the most plump burger that makes one start to compare…

 

Burger King

The prettiest Burger King ceiling I ever did see

 

And… Russian McFlurries are creamier than American ones, too.

"The Well-Done Farmer's"

To be entirely honest, the best American hamburger I had here was from a Russian cafe…

 

5. Russia has roller coasters. I would know – for the Fourth of July, I went to a “Disney-like” theme park. Oh, and they are WILD. The advertisements for the particular roller coaster that I rode said it went from 0 to 100 km/hr in 2 seconds, but the fact that there was no bar over my shoulders during all the loops and corkscrews was slightly more terrifying. But for the split-second I had at the top before the plunge, I could see the most spectacular view.

Roller Coaster in Russia

How Americans celebrate the Fourth of July in Russia…

 

6. Not all Russians drink. But when they do, according to my culture professor, they do it right. And it is normally vodka. “To warm Russians up because we are such cold people,” he would sarcastically explain.

 

7. The Minion movie in Russian is great. Without having really seen either Despicable Me movie, I can say that my friend and I laughed our pants off in a theater that only had a handful of other people in it… and they were all under 3 feet tall.

That reminds me…

 

8. Russian movie theaters have the comfiest seats ever. And probably the coolest refreshment options ever. A pint of Baskin Robbins? Sure. Refillable giant sugar sticks? So that’s why the little boy kept leaving the theater…

 

9. While it is advised to keep a straight, blank look on your face on the metro, some people are doing just fine without their “Metro Face”:

After this Russian man spontaneously hopped on the metro and started playing his electric clarinet after everyone had a long and tiring day (Navy Day celebrations – long travels, lots of walking, lots of exciting events)… he ran up and down the aisle – asking for money – and then hopped off at the next stop.

Never a dull moment.

BK

^^^ Not even for him.


Location: st. petersburg, russia

Valparaíso and Viña del Mar

My apologies in advance. This is not one of my funnier posts; it’s more of a this-is-what-I -did post. So if you are not my mom or dad, you have no obligation to read this.

On Saturday, I visited Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with the other chicos in my program. In Valparaíso, we visited one of three of Pablo Neruda’s houses. It was a beautiful house with 5 levels and had a beautiful view of the Pacific. However, it felt really strange being there. It felt like I was at one of Pablo’s (or should I say Neftalí’s?) parties to which I wasn’t invited. It was a cool experience to have, but I got an unwelcoming vibe (probably because I prefer to address a famous Nobel Prize winning poet by his first name).

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Pablo Neruda’s house

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The view from the 5th floor of Pablo Neruda’s Valparaíso house

After our visit to Pablo’s house, we walked the streets of Valparaíso, looking at the famous hills chock-full of colorful houses and admiring the graffiti. I definitely want to beach it for a day in Valparaíso when the weather gets a little warmer.

Graffiti in Valparaíso

Graffiti in Valparaíso

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“Use the bike”

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“Do something good today”

The hills of Valparaíso

The hills of Valparaíso

We took an ascensor (just like the Incline in Pittsburgh) down a hill and walked toward the port, passing by the Chilean Naval building. On our way to admire the ocean, we got a few Halo’s and a few middle fingers. I guess when you’re sightseeing with 21 students, it’s hard to blend in. I swear, it wasn’t us being obnoxious Americans.

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Chile’s Naval building

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By the port, a gringo who you can tell is a gringo

Our last stop was Viña del Mar for lunch before walking along the beach. We ate at an Italian restaurant. Why not Chilean cuisine? (1) Our professors chose the restaurant. (2) I’m not gonna lie, Chilean food is kinda meh. It’s pretty bland in my opinion. However, I did eat a Chilean (or, depending on who you ask, Peruvian) dessert called suspiro limeño (dulce de leche pudding under meringue topping – YUM!).

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Flower clock, a gift from Switzerland

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Suspiro limeño

Along the beach, there were vendors selling everything from Chilean flag hats to alpaca sweaters. Guess which one I bought? You guess it, the alpaca sweater! I’m planning on wearing it to class Monday, so maybe I’ll snap a photo for you to admire its gorgeousness. Chao for now!

The beach in Viña del Mar

The beach in Viña del Mar


Location: Valparaíso, Chile

My first poop

I’m constipated. Seriously. I recently pooped for the first time since I left my house in the U.S. I left Saturday morning and finally pooped Tuesday. That’s four days of no pooping. I’m telling you this not because I’m crazy (which I am), but because I feel like this constipation is very symbolic of learning a language in a new place. Allow me to explain:

At first, you don’t feel like you even have to poop. You need some time. You don’t speak much. You’re just waiting it out. You’re enjoying being in a new place, but you are also too nervous to talk or poop. You are very thankful that people are understanding of not wanting/being able to speak much yet. In the same way, you are thankful that you don’t have to poop yet because pooping in a new place can be awkward at first (even though everybody does it).

Then you get a little gassy. You try a new food that your host mom serves you. You think that you could poop now, but you’re going to wait. You blurt out only words or short phrases as you grow more comfortable in this new location.

Then you lose all inhibitions and go for it (and by go for it, I mean when everybody is asleep or out of the apartment). You decide to not be embarrassed and just poop. Just speak whenever you have something to say, whether it is grammatically correct or not.

I suppose the moral of the story is, when learning a new language, one cannot be embarrassed to make mistakes. This constipation will only make it harder and harder to build up the courage to speak. Just poop already!

On a side note, the toilets do not flush the opposite direction compared to the U.S. (see my first post). They kind of just suck everything down. Now you can go hope, pray, cross fingers, wish upon a star, do whatever you have to do to ensure that I don’t get kicked off the Penn State Geoblog for writing about poop.


Location: Providencia, Santiago, Chile

Moments of the Month

Now that it’s the last week (and almost the last day) of my abroad trip, I wanted to recap my top four favorite moments from the past month (one from every week).

Week 1: The London Eye (or the view from it)

The most beautiful view of Big Ben from the London Eye

View of Big Ben/House of Parliament from the London Eye

Although the London Eye itself was not my favorite part about this first week, it did serve as a reality check that I was officially in London. Riding the Eye and seeing all around London was beautiful and disorienting – I didn’t think it would be possible to experience all of the city sights in such a short period of time.

Week Two: Stonehenge Day Trip

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

 

 

Standing at the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

Standing at the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

This day trip was easily the longest day out of the month – yet entirely worth every tiring second of it. I loved not only learning a lot about Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and Avebury from our guides, but also visiting each place and seeing the famous circles of stones and abbey ruins. It still amazes me that so little is known about places like Stonehenge, even though they are SO ancient and frequently studied. I also included Glastonbury Abbey in particular because the ruins of this church were absolutely ornate and beautiful, even in their crumbling state.

Week Three: Tower of London

The Queen (and the monarchs before her) sure do have great taste in jewelry, though sadly we weren’t allowed to take any pictures of the Crown Jewels. Even so, seeing the Tower Bridge, meeting an authentic Beefeater, and touring the Tower of London was definitely another wonderful full day adventure. In addition to seeing the Crown Jewels (twice), we saw the ravens that legend states that if they were to leave the Tower of London the kingdom and tower would fall. We also were lucky enough to stumble on a type of inspection similar to the Changing the Guard ceremony, although with less pomp and circumstance.

Me, standing with a guard of the Crown Jewels
Me, standing with a guard of the Crown Jewels
Beefeater giving us a tour of the Tower of London

Beefeater giving us a tour of the Tower of London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week Four: Paris

Without a doubt my weekend in Paris has (so far) been my favorite part about this week. Click here to read my last blog post on why I loved Paris so much!

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The Eiffel Tower on my last night in Paris

Stay tuned for my final week thoughts and reflections on my London trip in my upcoming blog posts! Cheers, love!


Location: London, England

Bonjour et Au Revoir Paris

With one last weekend left in our London literary program, most of us went out of the country for the weekend. From Vienna, to Amsterdam, to Paris, our group spread out across Europe. I (as well as a few others) decided to spend the most amazing, and tiring weekend in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower up close (notice the beautiful weather)

The Eiffel Tower up close (also with beautiful, warm  weather)

The Arrival:

Friday we started our journey by leaving at the awful hour of 4:30 AM to catch our Chunnel ride to Paris. After arriving and figuring out how to read a subway station completely in French, we trekked our luggage around in order to get our first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, and find food. After exploring for a few hours, we went to the Louvre because of the free admission on Friday evenings! Although I primarily went to see the Mona Lisa, I also enjoyed the recreated Napoleon Apartments, and the various statues in the Louvre. Even after spending three hours in the Louvre I could and would still go back to see it all again.

The Mona Lisa at the Louvre

The Mona Lisa at the Louvre

26,000 Steps Later…

Today was easily the best and most tiring day of our weekend. By the end of the day I walked OVER 26,000 steps…a new record even for walking around London. After waking up early again, Josey and I climbed took the elevator up to the very top of the Eiffel Tower for an unexplainable view (even though it was cloudy in the morning). Then, I headed off on my own to go wait in a three hour line in order to see the catacombs (WORTH IT.) The catacombs were such a unique and historical sight to see in Paris, and I left wanting to know more! Finally, once I was done exploring the catacombs, I met up with a few of the others to walk through the beautiful Notre Dame (although it really doesn’t compare to St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster) and then we had a wonderful sit down dinner before our group went over to the Eiffel to see it one last time…

 

Hallway of the catacombs

Hallway of the catacombs

 

Some of the skulls and bones were arranged in patterns

Some of the skulls and bones were arranged in patterns

 

The Eiffel Tower literally sparkling at night

The Eiffel Tower literally sparkling at night

Au Revoir Already!

After a much needed 10 hours of sleep, it was time for us to say our goodbyes to Paris. I really enjoyed all I got to see and experience in Paris and visiting for only one weekend was a perfect amount of time to stay there. Paris is much more NYC city-like than London is and I was already missing “home.”

Food, Food, and More Food

By far my FAVORITE part about Paris was the food. From the first to last meal I enjoyed every bite of it especially the very French chocolate croissants, assortment of macaroons, and the crepe I ate.

My dessert was a sampling of all the desserts at the restaurant!

My dessert was a sampling of all the desserts at the restaurant on the last night!

As always, thanks for reading and stay posted to hear more about my last week in London! Cheers, love!

 

 

 


Location: Paris, France

Frustration

The Saturday after a magical Friday was seemingly well planned out.

Danielle and I were to visit some of our friends in Avignon who lived there, and the city was only about a 30-minute train ride away. It seemed perfect, the tickets were bought and we left ten minutes early to make sure we did everything right, given my mefiance (French for distrust) in public transportation. We left to take our connecting train at the local train station that was to arrive at the local TGV station and inquired as to where our train was. The woman behind the window briefly and lazily looked at Danielle’s screen of her phone as we showed her our train number and she told us that that was a bus, not a train. We panicked. The bus station was a 5-minute walk away and we had 10 minutes. But this was doable. We quickly gathered our few belongings that we were traveling with and ran to the bus station. We showed up at our bus, assuming the electronic ticket that we had would work, when the bus driver told us we would need it in paper. We panicked again because we were indeed running out of time and we ran to the information desk. Then that woman told us that this was a train, not a bus, and it departed from the same place we had just left. On a raté. At this point it was obvious we missed the first train because we were not going to walk back to the train station. And then we missed the next bus to the TGV station as well and the next bus would arrive 10 minutes after our train from the TGV station will have left. And thus we encountered our first situation of the weekend.

At this point I felt a certain heaviness that comes with the feeling that someone’s simple lack of attention that cost them absolutely nothing probably cost you your entire day. I truly loathed the woman that told us that we needed a bus because she lied right to our faces. There was no gain for her from doing this other than the pleasure she received from inconveniencing us, which I doubt was even a reward at that point. After this ordeal we were forced to get tickets for a later train ride, which was 17 euro apiece, and were 2 hours late. Our friend Thomas was waiting to pick us up from the TGV station in Avignon. When he picked us up some of the bitterness concerning the situation that had just transpired had evaporated and it was replaced with relief at seeing a familiar face and a good friend. He drove us into town and we parked right outside the city walls right next to a massive Ferris wheel, or as Thomas called it la grande roue. We walked through the town which had more of a city feel, found in the predominantly stone based structures and high walls. We saw le pont and various statues dedicated to World War I and II soldiers. The immense river that initially established the town of Avignon ran beside it and seemed to be a great source for the city. It was filled with history, and stories, but I was too distracted by the traveling theatre companies that traveled the streets, with a live promotional performance every 10 minutes you walked down the road, to really pay much heed. Comedians (which the French call one man shows) were being promoted and different dramatic acts were also quite heavily advertised. There was a flavor for everyone offered here in Avignon. Unfortunately we did not stay in town for very long, and we left after our lunch to go to Thomas’ friend’s house.

We had been speaking French for essentially the entire day at that point, and it was one of the first times either Danielle or I had tried to manage to entirely change languages for an entire day. I vastly underestimated how tiresome it would be. I felt mental fatigue that was unknown to me before this trip. When night came around they had other friends over who spoke absolutely no English. Zero. Thomas was very good and we could usually substitute English words for the words we did not know, but with the others it was difficult. It was also one of the first times someone told me I had an accent. It was relatively fun, but the exhaustion was killing me. Danielle and I taught them drinking games from the United States that would be fun to play, and that part was actually incredibly amusing, but it was short lived just because of the great amount of fatigue I felt from practicing another language so continuously. By the end of the night I was left barely able to keep my eyes open and I was left in a stupor. I looked at Danielle and saw the same drained look in her eyes that was probably in mine. Thomas looked at both of us and said; “you know, you can go to sleep if you are tired.” I could not remember if he said this in English or in French. I just felt my body stand up and carry itself to the room we were to stay in that night.

The next morning came and we were exhausted. I couldn’t even imagine having to go through another day with that much French, but I knew I had to face it. I got up and got ready for the hike in les Gorges du Touleranc we were to go on that hot day.

We met about 10 of Thomas’ other friends to carpool to the gorge after we met at the bakery to pick up some baguette to make our sandwiches for our picnic after the hike (I know, so French). And from there we departed, with Camembert, saucisson, and fresh bread in our backpacks. The gorge was definitely not what I expected. I expected to be hiking maybe through a gorge for a little while, with our trajectory being predominantly uphill, like a typical hike. I was so wrong. We spent the entire time in a river, and it may have been the coolest and most treacherous hike I’ve ever been on. The rocks were slippery and we found ourselves up to our chins in water during some parts of the hike. We were forced to climb up rocks surrounding waterfalls and I almost lost my footing quite a few times. A testament to the danger surrounding us was a man who lied in agonizing pain on one of the rocks surrounded by members of his group after he broke his leg slipping on a rock. We did our best to help him out, but the gorge was in a rather inconvenient location with no cell reception, making it difficult for emergency medical staff to do anything about the situation. After some time we parted ways with the worried group. After 3 hours of hiking through this terrain in one direction, we decided to make camp on a nice patch of rocks and feast on our bread, cheese, and sausage. It was delicious, but to be honest, I was still completely exhausted from the night before so I was not making much conversation. I just listened to their quick slang-ridden French and was trying to get used to the speed and roughness of vernacular talk. It was exceedingly difficult to follow but Danielle and I did understand much of it. Just looking at their body language, I could tell that they interacted similarly to the group of my friends I have at home, and I very much wanted to be a part of the conversation. But I quite honestly could not keep up, and that frustrated me to an incredibly high degree. I just wanted to talk to someone, without having a communication barrier in the way of the fluidity. I felt handicapped by the fact that I could not adequately express myself in this language, and even more frustrated that no one would slow down for me to accommodate this handicap.

There was one girl who did take the time to understand us and talk to us, although she did not speak English. Her name is Amandine. And I very much appreciated her company throughout the day. She would ask me what I wanted to do, what I went to school for, simple questions. I appreciated it so much, and I extended an invitation to her to stay with me if she ever finds herself on the east coast of the United States.

Overall, the trip may have been one of the most enriching learning experiences I had in France. The practice was overwhelming and I became horribly fatigued, and infuriated at my lack of skills. In some way, this trip inspired me to learn even more, and gave me one more reason to learn this language. I feel as if every person I meet, every book I attempt to read, every restaurant I go to gives me more and more of a reason to speak French fluently. I came to this country wanting to learn a language because I thought it was beautiful and I wanted to challenge myself. I now find myself realizing that I want to learn because I want to keep those friends that I have made, and that I want to be able to connect with the millions of people that speak the French language. What was seen as more of an art that I practiced for art’s sake at Penn State and throughout high school is now a practical tool that I have to facilitate communication and build friendships. Languages truly open doors, and I am excited to be a part of the experience and the journey that will one day help me to achieve fluency.

Santiago

I sat next to a really nice lady on the plane to Santiago whose husband went to Penn State. We talked about La Católica, where her daughter went to school and one of the universities affiliated with my program.

Freak out moment #1: When I realized I had lost the nice lady and had no one to answer my questions about the Santiago airport, immigration, and customs.

Freak out moment #2. When I realized that I had to speak Spanish to the immigration officers because they don’t speak English. No one flying from Miami to Santiago is dumb enough to not know any Spanish.

Freak out moment #3. When I met my host Mom. Apparently her information that was sent to me is out of date because her kids are a lot older now and I don’t believe they all live with her anymore, if I understood her correctly… She also has a little girl named Antonia who makes the best facial expressions. So far I’ve met Paola (the mom), the older daughter (I forget her name…that’s good….), and Antonia.

First impression of Santiago: There’s way more palm trees here than I expected.

My host mom is very nice, and I understand way more than I expected. I’m all unpacked. She fed me tea and eggs for breakfast and told me about Santiago. She spoke about all of the immigrants that live here (many Korean, Chinese, and Peruvians). I gave her gifts for hosting me (mostly chocolate, because everyone loves chocolate). Antonia wouldn’t eat her lunch, so she ate the chocolate covered pretzels that I brought instead. We discussed my orientation schedule for the next two weeks, and then went to the bank and grocery store. I think my experiences on the flight were way crazier than they have been here so far, but it is nice to relax. I’m sure that will change soon though!

My room.

My room.


Location: Providencia, Santiago, Chile

I Can Have My Cake, and Eat It Too!

After the first couple of weeks, we began taking overnight trips and experiencing different parts of Spain, as well as other countries! Our first major trip was to Granada, Spain. It is very well known for its Alhambra and Generalife, which is a palace that was used as a place of rest for Muslim royalty. As a rule of thumb, if I ever include say anything about a palace, building, or people that starts with “Al-”, that is an indication of the Muslim era. This area had beautiful overlooks of the town, gardens, fountains, and flowers. IMG_5089With every place that we visit, it’s mind-blowing to think that people built thIMG_5101em and didn’t have the advanced material and equipment that we have today. We were in Granada for the 4th of July, so that was a different sort of feeling as well. Since Spain doesn’t recognize the 4th as a holiday, it was just another day for them! Some of my friends dressed in red, white and blue; and when tourists from America would see us, they’d yell “Happy 4th!” and other things that had to do with the USA. It was cool to feel that little piece of home all the way over here! I’ll be honest; it was sad that we didn’t see any fireworks or have the typical 4th of July picnic. That’s always fun! We also visited Granada’s Cathedral, where some very important kings and queens are buried. Even the extra time we had was fun, aside from the tours and sights. The hotel was really nice, it had a pool and AC, which were both amazing!! It gave us a little break from the continuous heat of Seville.

This whole week was one of excitement. Not only did we have some great overnight trips, I turned 21!! Although I wish I could’ve been with family for my birthday, it was a cool experience! A lot of my friends here had their birthdays that week as well, so we celebrated and spent time together! The night before my birthday, my friends and I indulged in our 5-euro pizza once again. My friends were sweet and paid for my meal! Afterwards, we went for ice cream at one of our favorite places – Rayas. Once we were done with our ice cream, I went home so I could FaceTime with my family and Mitchell. That was really important to me, because it made things a little more normal for me. Even if I was only with them over the phone! I had a really fun time doing that, because Mitchell made me a brownie birthday cake and I blew out the candles virtually after he and his family sang to me! I also got a sneak peek of one of my birthday presents that I’ll get oIMG_5275nce I’m home! The next day, my host family treated me to a birthday surprise too! They got me an assortment of desserts, put candles in them, and sang “Feliz Cumpleanos!” It was especially exciting because several of their 14 children were there to celebrate with me. Needless to say, it was loud and chaotic!! I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, it gave me a sense of what it’s like at parties with my family! But I think my host family wins the prize for craziest get-togethers though. Not only do they like to talk, they try to out-talk each other! They don’t possess volume control, so there were times when I couldn’t hear myself think (not lying)! However, those times are when I can really test my level of understanding Spanish. When four people are trying to talk to me at once and I understand even two of them, I feel like a master!!

After a day of birthday festivities, I went to one of my favorite activities so far – a graffiti tour! Not only did I get to see the professional graffiti that people have done aIMG_5331nd the history behind the art, but I got to do my own graffiti! It was a cool feeling to know that I left my mark on Seville, even it it’ll be covered up at some point. It still means something to me! The professional artwork was unbelievable. In my opinion, that would be one of the most difficult forms of art, considering it’s very hard to control spray paint and a lot of them were very detailed. These are a couple of my favorites. The one of the baby just gave the area a sense of serenity, and I just found that piece very beautiful. The other one wiIMG_5332th the women has a lot of symbolism when it comes to Seville. It’s hard to see completely in the picture, but there are capsules with different things in them. In each capsule is Las Setas, el Torre del Oro, la Giralda, and the Triana bridge that is over the Guadalquivir RIMG_5354iver in Seville. There are all major landmarks of the city, and I have enjoyed visiting each of these places! Like I said, we saw this type of graffiti that was done by people who have made graffiti their life and profession, but we also showed off our own skills. As far as creativity skills are concerned, I have next to none. But, it was fun and I like to tell people I did it! I drew a couple things. The one I liked said PS I<3 U, because obviously I had to represent one of my favorite American places!! It was hard to do any type of picture, because I could not contain the spray paint in one specific area without making it look awful! That’s why I give the graffiti artists a lot of credit!

Like I already said, this week was packed full of fun! The last part of the week’s experience was more than just another activity, it was another country!! We went to Lisbon, Portugal; the capital! Only one half of the CIEE program students came to Lisbon. The others went to Amsterdam. Our trip was great, we got there quickly and easily, the program leaders were wonderful, and the experiences were very worthwhile. When I say we got there quickly and easily, it was almost too quick and too easy! The hostel wasn’t ready for us! It wasn’t an issue, though, because we were able to get the weekend orientation over with and had even more free time to explore! The first afternoon was relaxing; my friends and I just walked around, came back to the hostel to see where we were sleeping, and relaxed for a while. That night, we went to a planned dinner and Fado performance, which is Portugal’s famous music. Spain has Flamenco, Portugal has Fado! Let me tell you, it was amazing – Europe has a way of producing music like that! It says something about the music when you can’t understand the words, but can still completely understand the passion and power behind it. It’s kind of difficult to explain! I’ve definitely loved hearing the different types of music, since music has always been a big part of my life. The next day, we wIMG_5575ent to a very pretty monastery and saw a lot of other sights around there, as well as tried Portugal’s famous Pastel de Nata (pastry) – so good!! One of the prettiest places I’ve been to so far was after the monastery, the Torre de Belem! It was incredible! It is completely surrounded by water, and you have to walk on a bridge to go inside. Once we got inside, the views were great! It overlooked the water and a Golden Gate Bridge look alike. We spent a lot of time just relaxing and walking around the bottom of the tower, and also climbed to the top. That was interesting, because the stairs were really narrow! So narrow that there were traffic lights to tell people when they could go up or down, because the stairIMG_5579s only fit the width of one person. That night we had dinner on our own, and went to a great restaurant. Since Lisbon is essentially surround by the Atlantic Ocean, we quickly learned that they have deliciouIMG_5603s seafood!! I ate a fabulous salmon dinner! We ended our nice day with a walk to watch the sun set, which was calm and the weather was perfect. Couldn’t ask for anything better! It made for a perfect end to the weekend, since the next day we really only had time to see a little bit more of the city, pack up, and leave. It was the first of two great Portugal trips!! Can’t wait to tell you all about the second!

Miami y El Cubano OM NOM NOM

No troubles in Philadelphia, just some mediocre mac and cheese for lunch and a garlic stick. The Miami airport – last stop before Santiago!

When I checked in at BWI, I was only given 2 boarding passes and was told that I would obtain my 3rd one in Miami. After figuring out how to obtain my 3rd boarding pass, I wandered through the airport to find a place for some dindin. After watching Chef a few months ago on Netflix, I really wanted to try a Cuban sandwich and what better place to try it than Miami! (Watch the movie. It’ll make you want one too.) I chose a bar called Ku-Va (the phonetic spelling of Cuba, for those of you who need a little help sometimes). I walked in, sat down, and the bartender said Hola to which I responded Hello. “Hello? Really Emma? You’re moving to South America for 4.5 months and you’re going say Hello the first time someone greets you with an Hola??” I think the real reason this happened was because I’m from the Kennett Square area (which has a large Mexican and Puerto Rican influence). If I walk into a Hispanic restaurant in Kennett Square, nobody will greet me with Hola because I am white (racial profiling? if you can even call it that). Many times it is rude to speak Spanish because the people serving believe you are insulting their level of education, especially if they are very proficient in English. But I think I can deal with a little racial profiling if the worst thing that happens when I am profiled as white is I don’t get to practice the second language that I learned while attending a nationally ranked high school and then an internationally known college. #whitepriviledge #deep #iwentthere.

Anyways, back to the sandwich. I wasn’t expecting to like it because I’m not a fan of pickles, but it was delicious! So delicious that I couldn’t wait to take a bite of it before snapping a picture, so here is a photo of my partially eaten Cubano:

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El Cubano: pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and yellow mustard on Cuban bread.

Sandwich devoured, I stood in line to board my flight to Santiago. This lady in line asked me in Spanish what boarding group I was in. The best part…I understood her! The little victories count too.


Location: Miami, FL

Doppelgangers and Saliva

Left home by 5:45am.

Through security by 8:15am.

Einstein Bagels spotted by 8:16am.

This is where it gets interesting. I decide to get a blueberry bagel toasted with strawberry “shmear” aka cream cheese aka delicious pink goo. I sit down by the gate where my flight will leave for Philadelphia. SPOTTED: first doppelganger of the day. This guys is the spitting image of Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond. Spitting image! This is where it gets embarrassing. As I sit in awe of Ray Romano sitting across from me while I continue munching on my truly delicious shmeary bagel, I lose all control of my saliva glands. I’m no longer focusing on keeping my saliva in my mouth where it belongs because of how delicious the bagel is, and apparently I suck at multitasking. (Even if it is just spotting doppelgangers and eating.) A nice drip of spit slips from my mouth and falls in between my legs onto the chair which I have claimed at Gate C1. I look around to see if anyone has noticed and low and behold, the gentleman sitting 2 seats to my left was starring right at me as it happened. I’m so unbelievably, uncontrollably awkward. At this point, I don’t even care what he thinks, so I continue to embarrass myself even more by licking the yummy shmear off my hands as I try to text my friend Olivia. He tossed a few more looks my way while I lick my fingers while texting with my pinky and ring fingers.

After the saliva incident, I decide it’s time to get up and make a fool of myself by wandering around somewhere else in the airport with the spare time I have before my flight takes off. SPOTTED: second doppelganger. This guy is a gate agent for a flight headed to Dallas. He is the spitting image of my 8th grade Social Studies teacher. I think it may have actually been his twin brother. You’re lucky if you find one doppelganger in a lifetime and I have found two in one day! I make my way back to the gate hoping the man who saw me drool has relocated. He hasn’t, but I sit down anyways. SPOTTED: third doppelganger of the day and it’s not even 10am! This one was a little boy who looked just like Brick from The Middle.

Finally, everyone boards the plane. The flight attendant finishes up her safety talk as we pull out of the gate. The plane pulls about 20 ft out of the gate, maybe not even, and the plane dies. It just dies. All the lights shut off, the A/C turns off, just dead. Everyone stops what they are doing and gives the flight attendant their undivided attention, unlike when she was giving the safety talk. She gives a look back that says “Don’t look at me, I don’t know what’s going on either.”  We start hearing a “ding, ding, ding nose door open” again and again and again coming from the front of the plane. The captain then announces that we are having electrical problems and we will have to be towed into the gate where we can get off the plane while technicians fix the problem. Everyone stands up as we ready ourselves to get off the plane. Before anyone has exited the plane, the pilot tells us that they “fixed the problem” and it was “a lot simpler than expected.” That’s like me driving a car, and it starts dinging because the hood of the car is open. I tell you we are having electrical problems and can’t drive anymore. I call AAA to close my hood and then tell you I fixed the problem. Yeah the problem is fixed but it makes me look pretty dumb and makes you concerned to drive with me. I can’t complain though because I did eventually land safe and sound in Philadelphia


Location: Baltimore, MD