I let go during a tango

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It's 11PM. My flight to Santiago, Chile leaves in 9 hours. I haven't packed yet. And, I haven't even eaten dinner.

 

But, I just had one of the best experiences in my two months in Buenos Aires, and I have to write about it: I finally went to a tango lesson!

 

A friend of mine recommended that I take lessons from one professor, so three compañeros and I hopped on a bus and took it to an unassuming little studio on a corner. We knocked on the door, and fumbling our words, tried to say that we were looking for the tango class. After the woman at the door realized what we were asking, she let us in to this exclusive tango haven. We waited awkwardly for the teacher to arrive, chatting with some of the veterans.

 

At long last, a petite older man walked in, parting the sea of attendees as he approached us. He asked us who were; we dropped some names; and our lesson commenced.

 

He began by asking us if we had ever taken a tango class before, so we told him about our one experience at IES (it was part of orientation week). He asked us to demonstrate what we learned and quickly halted our hilarious attempt. "Let's start from scratch."

 

He told us that first we need to dance with our shoulders, the woman's hands on the man's shoulders, to be exact. The man needs to guide the woman, which he can do with a little pressure on the shoulder. He'd nudge my right shoulder, and I would instinctually turn to the right--and the same on the other side.

 

For those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning, you know I have a problem with "letting go." This time, I was determined to be a follower for once and let go. AND I DID IT. I cleared my head, occasionally closed my eyes, and let my partner guide me around the dance floor. What a freeing feeling! We danced and danced, engraining the basic steps into our muscle memory. Much to our surprise, he praised our progress, assuring us that he wouldn't say "está bien," if it were wrong.

 

He told us that tango is something you have to feel in your soul, your alma, so we need to get out of our heads, listen to the music, and let our bodies move with the fluid melodies. Although we were supposed to be serious and not laugh or talk, that class was so much fun! I've had a very stressful day filled with midterms and last-minute planning, and tango-ing put me completely at ease. I still feel so peaceful right now. Not many things can completely clear my head--I swear my brain is always moving a mile a minute--but somehow tango managed to do that. While I was dancing, all I thought about were the steps, my partner, and the music. I read once that some people compare tango to finding your zen. I completely understand that now. I may have finally found my gateway to tranquility.

 

I swear I'm in love. I'm in love with tango. I'm in love with my teacher. I'm in love with this wonderful feeling.

 

*Disclaimer: This was written a week ago, but I had no Wifi, so I couldn't post this until I got back from trip.*

 

More blog posts to come this week: I'll try to give you a glimpse into my vacation of a lifetime to Chile and Peru, but it's hard to describe an indescribable exp LAN.jpg

Where in the World is Amy?

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I just got back from a 10-day holiday and, wow, I'm tired! Living out of a tiny suitcase is not as easy as it looks!  My study abroad program, IES, took 40 of its students on a trip through Poland and Germany.  I was really excited for this break because it was the first time I left Vienna since coming here in August. 

Our first stop was Wroclaw, Poland.  I didn't know what to expect from Poland and I was very surprised as to what I discovered.  Wroclaw is an up-and-coming city and a growing arts center in Europe.  The old town was cute and had tons of places to eat and people watch (my favorite activity, haha), and the rest of the city offered great opportunities to hear music and visit contemporary art museums.  There are also several new festivals coming to Wroclaw soon, so it is becoming a more tourist-focused place.

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Our next destination was Germany.  We spent our first 2 days in Dresden, a beautiful city with rich history.  There was so much to do and see there I wish I could have spent more than a couple days.  After Dresden, we travelled to Berlin and had four days there.  Thankfully, IES gave the students a lot of free time in these cities, so my friends and I got to do what we really wanted to do.  In Berlin, I got to visit a communications museum, a modern art museum, and the Ramones museum (yes, there is really a Ramones museum!). We also visited numerous historical sites like the Berlin Wall, palaces, and old cathedrals.

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Overall, it was an amazing trip.  I made a ton of new friends and saw parts of Europe I would have never travelled to on my own.  In my opinion, Berlin was the best city of the three.  There was so much offered to students and I was able to meet other people my age very easily.  I also felt more comfortable in Germany than Poland because of my newly acquired German speaking skills.  Some people in Poland gave off a cold vibe to the American students.  I think it was mostly miscommunications that made me like Poland the least.  However, it was still a wonderful city and I would like to see more of Poland in the future.

Moyo Hill Camp--Week 3!

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 Wednesday, we had the opportunity to interview two wildlife poachers from the local area! When we heard that we were interviewing poachers, we honestly couldn't believe it. We didn't understand how our wildlife program set up a way for us to speak with poachers, but they told us that they have been doing it for a few years now. Kind of crazy. We had a few hours of lecture in the field, and then the poachers came to meet us. We had a list of questions prepared. Here are 10/28 questions we asked the poachers. Although some of the answers don't directly match up to the questions. We wrote down how they answered each question. Just a sample of the questions.

1. Social stigma?
Called criminals or thiefs/thugs when riding by on their motorcycles. Maasai call them wildlife thieves.

2. Do you hunt individually or as a group?
3-4 people

3. Objective/motivation for poaching?
Quick money, employment, their source of income.

4. How much money is made monthly/yearly?
Some people in the group either just want the meat, but some want to money. Averages for Thompson's Gazelle is 30,000 (roughly $18), Wildebeest is 200,000 (roughly $121), and giraffe is 400,000 (roughly $242).

5. What do you hunt with?
Snaring has become an outdated technique. They mostly chase animal while they are on a motorcycle and spear it when they get close enough.

6. How often do they hunt?
About every 3 days, but it is driven by the demand for the money. They don't own homes. They only rent. Money goes quick.

7. Hunting success?
Success rate is 3/5 outings. They are successful 40% of the time. 

8. When did they start?
One started hunting when he finished primary school (13-14 years ago).

9. Most common animals killed/poached?
Grant's gazelle, Thompson's gazelle (pretty small) but still poached, Impala, Lesser Kudu. Most animals that like large grazing areas, because they are easy to access. 

10. Zebras and wildebeest are most commonly killed in area, why weren't they mentioned?
During day, they poach using motor bikes. Zebras and wildebeest are most commonly killed in the day. At night, they park bikes and blind/daze animals with lights, then attack. Impala, Grant's gazelle most commonly poached at night.

 Later on, I finished up my olive baboon research paper, and turned it in.

Thursday, I did my laundry by hand for the first time (besides a few random things I've had to hand wash at home). This is different though. I used two buckets. One to wash and one to rinse. To save space in my luggage, I brought a toothbrush as my scrub brush, so the job was quite tedious. It isn't bad though. After I finished I hung them up to dry and went to lunch. In the afternoon, we had a few classes and then another field class. This time, we were going to the same pasture we did a scat survey near Lake Manyara to conduct a pasture grasses survey. We learned Couch grass (Cynodon dactylon), Odyssea jaegeri, Sporobolus spicatus, and Cyperus sp. and then began our survey. The grass was grazed over to ground level, because there are large groups of livestock and some wildlife that graze in this conservancy area. So, I thought it would've been hard identifying the grasses, but it got much easier as we went along. One group found the skull (with horns) of a Cape buffalo. Last time, I was in the pasture, I found the hoof of a zebra.

Friday, we had a pretty good and somewhat short day. We had a guest lecture in the morning from a local teacher. She was from the IRAWQ tribe. She taught us about education, daily activities in the life of an IRAQW person, and a woman's duties in a family. It seems crazy how much women have to do for a family and for herself. She taught us a few things and tried to help prepare us for our homestay that we will have next week! In the afternoon, we had another guest lecture from our program president who spoke about his work on the distribution of African lions. After these two great lectures, I did some homework in the morning, went for a run in the evening, finished laundry, relaxed outside until dinner, and finished season 2 of Game of Thrones to end my night. 

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Saturday, we woke up and ate breakfast and then some of went immediately to the community service project that we signed up for. I signed up to read books to children at a local orphanage. Others signed up for either construction on a pit toilet for the local school or Project Rhotia. I didn't have to leave until 9:30. I brought my "Bats" book along to read to the children. We got there at 10 and read with them until about 11:40. It went pretty quick, and it was a lot of fun. The two boys I read to were Danny and Jovita. Kiri, one of our SAMs told us that this was one of the best orphanages in the area. The owners are danish people from the Netherlands. They came to TZ and built a lodge and a children's home. They are essentially across from each other, but the lodge is more hidden. They pay for the kids in the orphanage to attend school. They also have a bakery where they make bread and sell it locally. These profits go towards the kids' school fees. They invited us to their lodge for coffee and tea.. I was all for it.. everyone was! So, we drove over afterwards and talked to them for about an hour. They have two dogs and cats at their tented lodge. They also showed us their garden. It was a very beautiful and relaxed place. We learned that most other orphanages in the area do take all donations for themselves and do not actually care for the children. This place was different. The people were good and the coffee was great! I am definitely going back. The coffee they had was from Gibb's Coffee Farm down the road, which we will be visiting sometime.. AND I CANNOT WAIT!

Coming back from the orphanage and lodge, I was very thoughtful. I was trying to brainstorm how I can make enough money to just continue traveling when I get home and after college is over. I think I'll still be trying to find jobs that are out of state, but I want to do more international travel. So many people here at SFS have traveled abroad, and this is only my first time! The main reason is due to money restraints, but I hope to continue traveling internationally from this point-on.

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Sunday was a blast! It was our non-program day. In the morning, I made a batik at a batik artist's house/studio! For anyone who doesn't know what a batik is, it's a method of waxing different sections of cloth to add different colors. I made an elephant batik, and also bought a batik with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background and silhouettes of trees and wildlife in the foreground. Around 1, we made our way into Karatu, where everyone was either at Happy Days Pub or Kudu Lodge. I spent about an hour at Happy Days Pub, and then went to Kudu Lodge to swim and hang out by the poolside bar. It was a perfect day to swim. The weather was hot and sunny. Kudu Lodge ended up being a great time. Before I left, I had a latte.. and it was amazing! I made some new friends, who happened to be the bartenders, but they were great. Very friendly! Overall, I don't think there was a person at Kudu Lodge who had a bad day. We were all very happy. When I got home, I hung out with everyone, and attempted to slackline. I ate dinner and then spent a lot of time laying in the hammock. Ended my night by having a good chat with a friend here, and then talking to my sister and niece. Excellent night!

Monday came too soon. Although, surprisingly classes didn't start until 10, I didn't really get a great nights sleep, because my back had been bothering me, and continued to bother me all day. Most of Monday was dedicated to our Environmental Policy class. We had to present a research article to the class. The research paper ended up being on grass--whoopie! The presentation went ok though, even though I wasn't feeling well, and would have rather been laying in bed. 

Tuesday, we ended up having only one class, and it was Swahili. All we did was get together with a group, and create a script using our Swahili. My group and I made a script for at the market. Everyones' script was very funny, and we actually had a great time creating them! Since the rest of classes were cancelled for the day, I spent my day working on my research paper about giraffe foraging behavior. At 3, I went to the local school to meet the 5th grade class that my group and I would be teaching for an hour, once or twice a week. Well, that's at least what we thought.. we pretty much got thrown in the classroom, and were expected to have something for the class. Thankfully, we had a few back up plans. First, we played pictionary on the chalk board. The kids spoke english pretty well, and were also great spellers and drawers. Then, we read a book to the class of about 31 students. We sang 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' with the whole class. And then decided to break up the class into groups of 5 and read them books in individual groups. I had a pretty good group. The boys in my group knew english and even helped me read the book. I read two books to my group. One was "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" and "Clifford." They enjoyed both books. Now, I am wondering what we will teach them next time? Tonight, we celebrated another birthday, my banda mate's birthday, actually! We also gathered things like soap, flour, sugar, salt, vegetables, and vegetable oil. Tomorrow, we have our first home stay with an IRAQW family from 8 AM to 5 PM. I will fill you all in on how that goes next week! Hoping it goes well!

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