Moyo Hill Camp-- Week 2!

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This week, Tanzania got really REAL. Like I mentioned in my last post, we went to Lake Manyara National Park on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had a field lecture a few kilometers from our camp. We drove to Elephant Hill, where elephants are actually no longer found. Our lecture was based around human-wildlife conflict and the influence that the locals have on the land. We learned that elephants don't use this land anymore, because there is no forest corridor to allow them to reach this area. When one stands at an overlook of the valley in this area, it is very clear that humans prevail. Although still beautiful, the areas are no longer natural forests. Most of what is seen is open landscape or agriculture. Some of the Ngorongoro Crater forest can be seen from the soccer field by our camp, and if we drive 6-8 km down the road, we can overlook the Lake Manyara National Park forest. This is great, but like we've learned, the locals graze their cattle, sheep, and goats just about everywhere here, even in illegal areas, like national parks and conservancies. Most areas are overgrazed and the vegetation cannot grow back fast enough to support wildlife and livestock. Here, the government owns the wildlife, and the locals do not like that. Often animals such as lions, elephants and rhinos are poached in East Africa, but these aren't the only animals poached here. Sometimes wildlife is poached, because locals are trying to retaliate against the government for land or hunting restrictions, or because locals retaliate against wildlife that kill their livestock. Sometimes, wildlife is poached, because people want valuable things that animals have, like the ivory tusks on an elephant. Often, poaching is used as a way to access bush meat, which is sold for money or eaten. 

On last Wednesday, we were informed that we would be having a traditional Tanzanian goat roast on Friday to officially welcome us to the community. Kiri, our Student Affairs Manager (SAM) informed us that the entire process of the goat roast would be done at our camp. Our SAMs encouraged us to watch the whole process, because it is important in the Tanzanian culture and that as meat eaters, we should see and understand the process. I didn't really think a whole lot about it until Friday, when I had decided to watch the process. Although, not something that I was particularly crazy about, because I love the cute little fluffy goats that we see running around, I also knew that it was a way of life for all, here (and everywhere). Honestly, it was quite a real experience for me, even though I have been exposed to things like it before. On Wednesday, a few of us visited a school program known as Project Rhotia. Students dedicated to learning come here after (actual) school to learn english and computer skills (surfing the internet, Microsoft Excel, Word, etc.). The kids were great! We only went there to meet them, but then we ended up teaching them songs like 'head, shoulders, knees, and toes' or 'the itsy bitsy spider.' They taught us an even better song in english about mountains and they even had a dance for it, They are great kids, and I've decided to dedicate some time to helping them learn english and computer skills. In turn, they are going to help me with Swahili!


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Thursday, we went into the field to conduct a scat survey. We went to plains next to Lake Manyara and conducted scat transects with the help of Maasai men. There are many Maasai tribes in this area. Although, Tanzania is a Swahili speaking country, Maasai have their own language but normally know Swahili as well. The words we had to know to communicate with the Maasai men were engine (goat), engerry (sheep), engiteng (cow), osikiria (donkey), orngojine (hyena), oloitoko (zebra), engoli (Thompson's gazelle). enguili (impala), and orkimosorok (wildebeest). The man on the left was helping us identify the scat for our survey. We had a great time! At the end of our transect, we walked to Lake Manyara and viewed thousands and thousands of flamingos. First wild flamingos I have ever seen (and in thousands)! Thursday was a great day, until I figured out that someone had stole my bank card number, and the only way for me to cancel the card was to call. Thankfully, my sister cancelled it for me, and I have to buy minutes to put on someone's tracphone to call the states and try to get my money back. It was very annoying, but at least it was taken care of on Friday.

We celebrated a student's birthday on Friday. They have awesome birthday evenings here. After dinner, the cook staff and a few others will come together. The lights in the dining hall are shut off, and they come in singing/chanting an awesome song in Swahili carrying small branches from trees that they wave around while dancing. The way they sing and harmonize is absolutely amazing. As they dance around the dinning hall, they gather students into the dancing circle and we join in. It is so much fun, plus, there's CAKE! 

On Saturday, for our Environmental Policy class, we were put in groups of four and dropped off in a village to survey local people. At first, we were a little worried, but they had a translator for us and he walked around with us, and confronted all of the residents for us. We ended up having a ton of fun! The people here are so nice! They are nothing like American people. All of them answered our questions. Everyone we asked questions too were apart of either the IRAQW or Maasai tribes, we believed. The first family we visited were very nice. They invited us into their home and offered to let us try their local alcohol that they make from maize. We declined, of course. Before we left, a mother tried to give us her youngest son, probably 3 years old. We laughed and she laughed with us, but she was serious. Our translator told us that she most likely tried to give him to us because she could not afford to send him to school when it was time, and she has other kids to support. We were also told that some people in the village believed that we were there to take the land. Most people were very nice and cooperative. Most of the time, everyone in the area was staring at us, and they don't always look like the friendliest people, but often, they are cooperative and helpful. 



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Sunday was our free day! Most people went and explored Mto wa Mbu and either did a morning hike, knife painting class or bike ride. I got lucky enough that I got to tag along with a professor and a student who is conducting camera trap studies. I went along to help take notes and set up the cameras. We went to Manyara Ranch, picked up a ranger, who had a gun with him, and went on our way into the bush. We saw a ton of wildlife! Things we saw were: dik-dik, kudu, impala, giraffes, elephants, banded mongoose, wildebeest, an owl, eland, a secretary bird, a spotted hyena, weavers, a deceased leopard turtle's shell and a ground nesting bird's nest. I had a great time! We also saw the skeleton of a poached elephant from 2011. Sidenote--after 2011, more rangers were implemented into the area and elephants haven't been poached there since then.. hopefully it stays that way! 

Monday, we started our second and a half week of classes. We had a paper due Wednesday on baboon behavior, so I spent the next few evenings trying to finish it up. Tuesday, we got to do a birding exercise! My favorite exercise, yet! Added some new birds to my life list too. :)

Catch-up on my discoveries in the argentine city that never sleeps

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Hey everyone! Sorry that it's been so long since my last post...I never want to take a break from running around Buenos Aires to reflect! So, I'm going to try to cram in a few of my adventures in this post to catch up.

 

I didn't know this before I came here, but Buenos Aires is home to a world-renowned circus-type show entitled Fuerza Bruta ("brute force" translated). Since its creation in 2005, this "post-modern theatre show," as it's described, has spread to major cities around the world, including our very own NYC! Its goal is to encourage interaction between the performers and the audience, creating a unique experience each time. The best way I can describe it is a demented version of Cirque de Soleil. The show went something like this: they packed all of us in a fairly small room and we stood as the acrobats circled around us, screaming, chanting, singing, banging drums, and doing flips in the air--it's crazy! Throughout the show, seizure-inducing lights danced around the constantly changing canvasses, making me feel like I was in another dimension. The performers got up close and personal, encouraging us to join them in exploring our own "brute" sides. My description doesn't do it justice, but it was one of the most intriguing experiences that I've had in Argentina so far--definitely a must-see in B.A.

 

Besides that incredibly insane show, I've been exploring some other cultural hubs around Buenos Aires. One of these is the MALBA, or the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. It's pretty small, but it currently has a really interesting exhibition by Le Parc Lumière, a French artist. An inventive thinker, he wanted to create art that wasn't static. He wanted his art to evolve and breathe. Thus, he put together an exhibit that plays with lights and glass (picture and video below). The piece consists of a dark room with lights from every angle reflecting off of different pieces of glass. It was kind of like an out-of-body experience; I was mesmerized, like a child during her first snowstorm. It's amazing how something so simple can be so thought provoking.

 

Another museum I visited with my anthropology class is the Museo de la Plata, which is a natural history museum filled with fossils and indigenous relics. We've been learning about the founder, Francisco Moreno, and his controversial collection of native human remains. He used to display the skeletons of hundreds of indigenous people throughout the museum, but a fairly new law forced the museum to remove this part of the collection and guard them in another room that's closed to the public. Now, the museum has become a taxidermy showcase. It's interesting to see such a variation of creatures all in one place, but throughout the whole visit, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had stumbled into someone's creepy basement and discovered their secret fetish. There were dinosaur bones, stuffed birds, preserved insects, and even one human mummy still on display. It appeared outdated, but that was part of its "charm," I suppose. It definitely served as a stark contrast to the sleek and modern MALBA.

 

As you can gather from reading this, Buenos Aires is an eclectic city that never sleeps, so I have the privilege of discovering a new side every week. It's incredible. There's much to come ahead, including my first writing assignment for my internship at the Buenos Aires Herald.  Stay tuned! IMG_0837.JPG
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Adjustments

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Like I mentioned in my last post, European lifestyle is drastically different from the American lifestyle.  How people act in public, how they shop and consume, and how city life moves in Vienna is all new and unusual to me.  I have spent the last three weeks observing these differences and becoming comfortable with the unfamiliar.  It is hard, but a necessary part of being abroad.

The biggest disparity between American and Viennese culture that I've seen is how people act in public.  In Vienna, people do not smile.  I mean it! In Austria, one is not expected to act happy and upbeat all the time.  Waiters and cashiers aren't going to act nice and ask you how your day was.  But, if someone is rude or cold towards you, you can't take it personally.  People here just don't hide their emotions. Viennese people are also quiet and reserved.  People dress very modestly here and keep to themselves.  The trains and subways are almost always silent during morning commutes. Strangers don't talk to each other very often and everyone seems to be very comfortable in silence.  Actually, I love going to cafes and restaurants to get work done because you can never hear a conversation happening at the next table! 

One of the positive differences of being in Vienna versus America is how progressive and forward thinking Austria is.  The people here take pride in everything they have.  They make sure all public spaces are clean and leave it better than they found it for the next person.  The trains and buses in Vienna are the best I've ever seen.  They always work smoothly and efficiently, come every 3 to 5 minutes, are easy to navigate, and of course are always tidy.  Recycling is also a very big part of Viennese culture.  There are recycling bins everywhere and everyone is expected to do their job and throw out their garbage in the right bin.  Another part of Vienna I found unusual was how you do not need to swipe a ticket or pass to get onto buses and trains.  The government trusts people will buy their weekly or monthly passes and have it with them at all times.  Of course, there are random checks to see if everyone has a pass, but most of the time people always have a ticket.  It seems to me the people of Austria are very trustworthy!

After three weeks I don't think I can say I'm completely ready to switch over to the European way of life.  I love talking to everyone I meet and definitely do not fit in with the quiet and conservative Austrians.  But, I love their dedication to keeping their city beautiful and well run.  The presence of community is powerful.

First Weeks are Hard

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So I wrote this earlier in the week and tried to post, then spent 20 minutes trying to get some uncooperative pictures in.  I have decided to give up on this post with them which is sad because I saw a blue duck.  I have also realized that I mixed up Berg (mountain) and Burg (castle).  I'll blame this on the heat of adventure... or something like that.

Anyway:

Time for update 1!


Today was my first day of language class. Its a month long immersion course two months before real classes start. I thought my understanding would sort of be on par with it. I was wrong. Turns out I am about a foot and a half too short for it - it was way over my head. Now to mix metaphors: hopefully I am a good enough swimmer that I can keep afloat. Either that or grow a lot. Loss.


After that disaster of a class today I left and found a small café for something to eat. Turns out you can't order inside then eat outside. Also, an espresso is actually a tiny cup with strong brown liquid in it that sort of resembles coffee. I wouldn't call this a total loss, but it wasn't a win either. Lets chalk this up as a tie.


I have been told by many people how lovely this city is and how beautiful the Swarzwald (Black Forest) is. I went on a little adventure. Just me, my pack with all of the homework I am putting off until later and my phone. Google has an app called MyTracks. Its awesome. I get lost easily in cities, but this keeps track of me so I know where I have been (or where I am going), then you can save the trip and look at it later. Nifty app.


Anyway, I ended up traipsing through the forest for a total of 3.75 miles. I found a couple beautiful look outs and even found a tower that was supported with giant logs. As a result of this, if you stand at the very top and do a butt-wiggle the entire tower sways.


After this tower I continued on in search of Schlossberg. (I got lost in the woods for a little, but that was sort of on purpose and completely for fun.) What I found was just a tiny remnant of something that didn't look like what a Burg should look like. I am assuming I found the wrong place. Google isn't helping. I will have to go back. I'll call this a win cause I broke my ankle in the middle of April and had no problems today.


All in all, I'd say so far Freiburg and I are even. Time to read the dictionary.

Week 1--Moyo Hill Camp!

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On September 1, I began my journey by driving to New York from Pennsylvania at 5:00 AM. I had begun my first journey out of the states. I met others in my program at JFK International Airport in New York, where we flew to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol together and took a connecting flight to Mt. Kilimanjaro National Airport. We arrived at 7:45 PM (East Africa time zone) on September 2, where it was already dark. By the time we received our visas and found our drivers, it was nearing 9:30 PM. The drive to our camp is 3 hours from the airport, but we were informed that we would only drive one hour to Arusha where we would stay in a hotel.

Our first drive through Tanzania at night was already very different The steering wheel in the Land Cruiser is on the right side and Tanzanians drive on the opposite side of the road that Americans do. The landscape was so dark and when there was light, there were little villages/towns with people standing by the road or inside homes after 10 PM. Many were walking along the roads in pure darkness and there were a lot of motorcycle drivers along the roads too. As we continued, I watched the trees and open landscape pass by. I also noticed that Tanzanians continuously flash their lights and will flash their turn signals when passing drivers in the other lane at night. We arrived at the hotel, received the keys to our rooms and ate our first Tanzanian dinner. Our first night in Tanzania had begun!

The next morning, we ate breakfast and gathered our things, and then we went on to exchange money. Before we reached the gates to our camp, we drove through a small village where children playing outside were clearly very happy to see us. They smiled and waved to us while we drove by. We arrived at our camp around noon. The entrance with giraffes and lions and elephants painted on it opened up, and we entered our new home for the next three months.


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Our small camp (or campus) is welcoming and pretty cozy actually. There are student and faculty bandas (translates to shed or barn in Swahili, but they are actually like little dorms), a classroom, a dining hall, a small library, a garage, and even faculty offices. The bandas have a bathroom, two bunk beds, and desks. I laugh when they call camp a "campus" because it really doesn't seem like one at all. I am use to a large campus with about 45,000 students. Here there are 42 students and 30 faculty and staff members. Our camp is definitely a place for learning, but sometimes we have so much fun that we barely realize we are learning. 

On the first evening, I met my three roommates and got settled into our banda, Tembo (translates to 'elephant' in Swahili). I also went with some fellow classmates and watched some peers play soccer. Some local children were excited to see us. They immediately ran to us and gave us all high fives. They tried our sunglasses and hats on, and I even had two of the children braiding my hair. They loved getting their pictures taken (with or without us) and seeing themselves on the digital cameras.

The next few days involved a pretty straight forward schedule: breakfast at 7:30, classes begin at 8:00 AM, lunch at 12:00 PM, and we would complete classes around 5:00 PM. My current courses are: Introduction to Swahili, Techniques of Wildlife Management, Wildlife Ecology and Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values. In November, we will begin our directed research. I spent Wednesday though Saturday relaxing in our banda, playing games, attending classes, studying, watching The Game of Thrones at night with the group, practicing slacklining, and I even hiked up Moyo Hill to explore and take pictures. We are staying in the valley below Moyo Hill. 


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We have classes Monday through Saturday, and Sundays are our days off. We went on a hike to Elephant Cave and waterfall at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area down the road from us. It was short and beautiful one mile hike, where I saw my first baboon! Afterwards, we went to Happy Days Pub where they were playing American music (to my surprise). It was a great place to hang out and spend time with our new family and the pub cat, named "Paka" (translates to 'cat' in Swahili). Most of us then made it over to the monthly market in Karatu where we could practice our bargaining skills--oh boy! It was similar to a huge flea market, only the stands were very close together. There were shirts, shoes, fabrics, fruits, meats, dishes, crafts, livestock (cows, goats) and more. As soon as we exited our vehicle, people with backpacks were asking us to buy things. We proceed into the market and began shopping. I spent about an hour and a half looking around. I used some Swahili that I have learned in class to bargain, but I still have a lot of practicing to do. I bought two pieces of fabric to take to the tailor and a purse. It was a crazy but awesome experience! While we were walking back to our vehicles (and still being mobbed by locals selling things), we witnessed a small bull (cow) get loose from its owner and then the people begin to scatter. It was quite chaotic, but entertaining as well (because it wasn't running in my direction). 


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We had our first field exercise outdoors at Lake Manyara National Park yesterday and continued it today. We went on game (wildlife) drives in a Land Cruiser. It was my first African safari! The first creatures were saw were olive baboons, and we soon learned that they were all over the park. I saw my first wild bush elephants, zebras, Masai giraffes, hornbills, warthogs, wildebeest, cape buffalo, impala, Thompson's gazelle, hippopotamuses, and much more! We did not see lions, but we understand that at other parks, they are all over the place. The park we were able to visit these last few days is home to the "tree climbing lions." Yesterday, three elephants (2 of the 3 are pictured above) walked within two feet of our safari vehicle. It was amazing! They walked right past us as if we weren't even there. Two great first days in the field.. I cannot wait to see what is ahead!

Greetings From Down Unda!

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I'll be starting this long overdue blogpost with two memes that capture what my 7 weeks in Melbourne, Australia have been like: soamazing.jpg amazingmeme.jpg Melbourne is Amazing! I've been struggling to find a word to describe what this city feels like, and the one word that constantly comes to mind is "home". There's an aura about Melbourne that just grabs you, and makes everything feel...easy. It's unexplainable to be honest, but if you can think of that one happy place in your mind, Melbourne is the one...to me at least. You could blame it on bias, but all of the wonderful friends I have made here share the same sentiments. In Aussie time, it's been exactly 7 weeks since I arrived here, and it's terrifying to think how quickly time flies. I'm trying to grab as many memories as I can, and writing this blog helps keep them all in perspective. I don't want to forget anything; this feeling of home, it's something I haven't felt in a long time. But before I get into that, I want to properly introduce myself. About Me: My name is Lynn Onyambu, I am 19 years old (20 next month!), and a senior in Penn State/University of Melbourne. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but i've lived in the US for 12 years of my life. My father is Kenyan, and my mother is Zambian. So even though i'm half blood (Harry Potter PUN-DEFINITELY-INTENDED), i'm still 100%, all around African. I speak Swahili fluently, and a bit of Spanish (barely, but definitely more than the casual "Hola, Yo Quiero -insert name of restaurant chain- "). I am majoring in Media Studies, International Communications, and minoring in International Studies. I'm not a Pennsylvanian native, but I've lived there longer than I have lived anywhere else, so I guess you could call me an adopted native. I bleed blue and white, but that's a given cause PENN STATE, DUH! Why I Chose Melbourne: I honestly ask myself the same question. I always had dreams of doing an exchange program in London, but one day Australia just popped into my mind, and I ran with it (Chris Hemsworth may have been a slight motivation). I researched the best communication schools in the world, and the University of Melbourne was one of them (and also the top university in Australia!). I was hooked before I even clicked on the website, and my Google search became even better once I noticed their school colors were similar to Penn State's. I found out that Penn State did in fact have an exchange program with Unimelb (gotta use the nickname to up my street cred), and it was all set from there. Months later, here I am, in the greatest city in Australia (sorry Sydney!), possibly even the world. I am studying in a university where I don't feel overwhelmed, doubtful, or even scared. I'm in an environment where everything reminds me of home, and Penn State, and that's more than I could have ever asked for. Goals: I only have two goals that I want to accomplish while I'm here.
  • To be the very best version of myself, morally and academically.
  • To live. I sometimes get stuck in keeping myself in a comfortable routine of complacency where I don't challenge myself to see more than what's beyond the surface. But i've got my night goggles, telescope, and binoculars this time around, so let's do this!
Pic of Advice: cover1.jpg I have found my happiness here in Melbourne, and for those of you who will read this, I challenge you to do the same. It's certainly not that easy, different trials and tribulations will factor in, but it's also not impossible. Every journey begins with the first step. Ps. Here's a picture of some of the friends i've made in Melbourne. No worries though, more pictures are coming soon. I have so much to share with you all! Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for blogpic1.jpg Stay lovely, Lynn

Wandering around a Wonder of the World

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This post is quite overdue, but nonetheless read on to hear about my adventures at Iguazu falls, now one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

 

For those of you who don't know, Iguazu falls, also known as the Cataratas, are gorgeous, huge waterfalls that were created millions of years ago by a geological fault that split up Argentina and Brazil. Now, the Cataratas are a huge tourist attraction, with people traveling from all over the world to see the 250-foot tall falls. The main attraction is the "Garganta del Diablo," or "Devil's Throat," which, as you can imagine, is quite intimidating. I now have the privilege of saying that I was doused by the Devil's Throat--how cool is that?!

 

The falls take up a solid day, so we got up with the sun and headed straight for them. Two hikes provide very different views of the main waterfalls--one from the base and one right above them. There's a thin metal bridge that allows you to walk over the falls. I have a slight fear of heights, so by the time we had finished the upper loop, I was a little weak in the knees. If the bridge were to have broken, I would have fallen straight down to my death.

 

By far the coolest (literally and figuratively) part of the day was when we boarded the Nautical Adventure boat to explore the base of the falls. They warned us that we would get wet, but we had no idea what we were in for. The captain took us right into the mist of Salto San Martín. The mist was so forceful that I can't even imagine what the water pressure is right under the waterfall. It would have broken our necks! Then, he sped closer to Garganta del Diablo, and we got a one-of-a-kind view of the magnificent waterfall before yet another shower. By the time the Adventure was over, we were soaked to the bone, shivering in the shade of the jungle. BUT--it was an experience that I would definitely repeat. So incredible. So worth it. My pictures can't do it justice.

 

After our action-packed day, we retreated to our hostel (the first one I've ever tried!) and played games into the wee hours of the morning. It was so much fun! I still can't get over the fact that a month ago, my big adventure was taking the train every day to work in Philadelphia. Now, I can hop on a bus and the next day be exploring a natural wonder of the world or even a different country! It's insane. Study abroad truly is the experience of a lifetime, and I'm trying to cherish every precious moment.

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Preparations and the Days at Home

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It's hard to believe that my African adventure is just around the corner. After I arrived home from my summer of surveying birds (Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos) in New Mexico, I immediately began spending time with my family and friends. Over these last few weeks, I've spent my time relaxing, spending time with my family (especially my niece), catching up with some members of my Penn State family and some high school friends, hanging out with mother nature at my favorite state park in Pennsylvania, attempting to get things done at home, and packing for my trip. It's been a great past few weeks, but I am excited to begin my three month journey in Tanzania. I am just about ready to go. I am mostly packed now. The main thing that I am worried about is making it to the airport on time. My family and I are definitely planning to leave pretty early, but I am worried about the drive to the airport. I am just hoping all goes well with traffic, etc! 

And So It Begins

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Hello everyone! It has been quite the week for travelling for me.  Last Tuesday, I set off for my study abroad and arrived in Vienna early Wednesday morning.  But, before I could move into my apartment in the city, IES Abroad took all of the students to a family Hostel in Mariazell, Austria for a three-day orientation.  Mariazell is a small city three hours away from Vienna in a region called Styria.  It is mostly known for its winter sports and beautiful basilica.

Thankfully, there were no name-games at this orientation.  IES wanted the students to meet the staff and each other, grow comfortable with being away from home, and learn a little about what it's like to live in Austria.  We had a traditional Austrian night (so, so many lederhosen) and we were taught to dance the Viennese waltz.  We also had day trips to Erlaufsee, a beautiful lake with a hiking trail, and into the city of Mariazell to tour the basilica and a schnapps factory.

After barely getting any sleep at orientation, everyone packed up their stuff and we were shipped off to Vienna to finally move into our apartments.  And, wow, it was totally worth the wait.  I live in Vienna's 6th district, only a 20 minute walk from the center of the city.  There are a ton of things to do, like the naschmarkt, various types of restaurants, and stunning parks.  I have only lived here two days, but I know this place will grow to feel like home.

IES warned students there might be some ups and downs while we're abroad.  According to them, I'm still in the first phase of being in a new country, where everything is new and exciting and culture shock just hasn't hit me yet.  I recognize that European life is very different from what I'm use to in the United States, but I am so open to everything I have experienced so far that I think I will be very willing to adjust myself to assimilate to the Viennese lifestyle.   Isn't that what study abroad is about? I want to push myself to see what I am capable of and learn from mistakes I will inevitably make while I'm here.  I hope to gain a new perspective on the world and on my inner self. 

A Taste of Argentina's Roots

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Before I launch into my experience in Argentina's countryside, I want to clarify my last blog post. There are two places you can take classes through IES--at the IES center itself and at local Argentine universities. My last post was referring to my trial run of classes at a local Argentine university (USAL). While I will not be taking classes at USAL, I will be taking a full semester's worth of classes at the IES center--all in Spanish. I'm not just taking an incredible four-month hiatus from the real world.

Now that that's out of the way, I've got to tell you all about my taste of Argentina's roots at La Estancia--a ranch in the countryside. First, a little background: Argentina has a blended identity--one part "civilized" immigrants and the other native cultivators of the land. The gauchos are, in essence, the quintessential cowboys that lived along the frontier. Two weeks ago, we got to experience this more serene side of Argentina.

It was great to escape the smoke-filled airs of the city for a day and relax in the sunshine at La Estancia. We watched the animals roaming around the farm, listened to traditional gaucho music, and sampled the typical Argentine "asado." The music was passionate and melancholy, and seemed to evoke the national sentiment of the gauchos. The food was...an experience. They had a lot of bread, of course, and A LOT of meat. There was chorizo, chicken, beef, pork, and the one I had been waiting to try...morcilla, a.k.a. blood sausage. Three years ago, I wouldn't even have allowed that to touch my plate. But, I turned over a new leaf a few years ago, and now I'm on a mission to taste (almost) everything once. I apologize to anyone who likes morcilla, but it was definitely one of the most disgusting foods I have ever eaten. It tastes a lot worse than it looks in this picture. Bleh! The texture was like paté, and the taste was indescribable. I'm glad I can check that off the bucket list, because I don't intend to repeat that experience.

 

To close out the day, we watched the Doma India, who is, in essence, a "horse whisperer," do acrobatics with his horse. It was very intimate and intense--the connection this man had with his horse. Apparently, he's world-renowned, so it was a privilege to see a private performance.

 

While the day trip was wonderful, I continued my string of embarrassing touristy mishaps that night: It was 11 PM, and my friend and I were hungry. We just wanted a quick, cheap dinner, so we decided to check out a cute little Italian place near her apartment. We sat down, opened the menus, and then immediately looked at each other wide-eyed--"Uh-oh." Thinking that we were grabbing something cheap, I had only brought about 150 pesos--the equivalent of $15 in the states. Everything on the menu had three (Argentine) dollar signs. But, we couldn't just get up and leave--that would probably be a faux pas. We were stuck, so we ordered one meal and one water bottle to share (yes, you pay for the water here), and laughed our way through dinner. I'm pretty sure our faces were as red as the sauce by the time we left. Stupid Americans. Naturally, we drowned our embarrassment in delicious gelato and retreated to our beds.

 

Sorry that this post was so long, but there is even more to come! I finally started my  internship and spent a wonderful weekend by the waterfalls of Iguaz IMG_0599.JPGIMG_0621.JPGIMG_0613.JPGIMG_0627.JPG




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  • JESSICA NICOLE ARNOLD: Wow! Even though you had a series of unfortunate events, read more
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