Monthly Archives: May 2012

Play ball!

Between goodbye parties and last minute packing, I had the chance to go to my very baseball game ever!


Nagoya’s baseball team is the Chunichi Dragons, and the city is very supportive of their baseball team. After spending an entire semester living close to Nagoya Dome and seeing fans everywhere, my interest in baseball was admittedly piqued. Baseball is a big deal in Japan, with roots dating back before World War II, so who was I to ignore tradition? I expressed an interest in going to my host parents this semester after seeing my host brother obsess over them (he knows all the starting batters and players. All of them.) and seeing merchandise around the house. As a gift to me, my host mother and sister and I all went to a game.


We got pretty decent seats, not too into the crowd, so we weren’t surrounded by screaming people or anything, but it was still insanely loud and noisy. We were in the bleachers that were closer to the opposing team, the Lions, and every time the Lions were at bat, we had crazy fans screaming around us, and then cursing loudly when the Dragons were at bat.

P1040019.jpg P1040053.jpg

I have only a vague understanding of baseball, but I pick up quite quickly. The beginning of the game was pretty uneventful and even disappointing, as the Lions managed to get in a good homerun, but the Dragons pulled in after the 7th inning and we left by the end of the 8th with Dragons pulling in 5 more runs, which was amazing. There was a lot of screaming and cheering at that point, from me included.

As baseball games go, that one was pretty fun. I got a grasp on some of the main players in the Dragons, and I’m definitely excited to see more, American or Japanese, regardless, though it was more fun here to see people bring out their bento boxes and sushi and buy Japanese beer. Baseball is a fun game to watch and the attitude of the crowd is infectious. Now all I need to do is learn all of the Dragon cheers and I’ll be ready for another round.


By the by, Dragons won 6-2! Good game!

Location: Nagoya Dome, Nagoya, Japan

Shoveling the bus out of…sand?

G’day Mates


The next two days were spent at my favorite destination: Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef. This area is home to one of the largest and most diverse reefs on the western coast of Australia. Coral bay offers a variety of activities such as riding ATV’s along the coast and through the desert, snorkeling with diverse wildlife on a glass bottom boat, and even swimming with whale sharks. While some of our group chose the latter, I decided to take the glass bottom boat tour. Funny thing about choosing this tour is that I almost didn’t get a chance to go on it.


Since our tour started at noon, our fearless leader Craig decided he wanted to take the bus out for an adventure on some ATV trails. He had never been out there so he wanted to take a look. Having plenty of time, a group of us went along for the ride. About 10 miles out we enter the course and it is pretty rough. The bus had to climb some large boulders and bounce along a bumpy, rocky road. The path took us to a deserted coastal access road. We round a corner and find ourselves sliding down a very steep sand dune toward the water. We are well short of the coast but we find ourselves stuck in about 2 feet of sand. For about two hours we try desperately to push the bus free but without any luck. In this situation we found out a very true Australian cultural value. When Australians are stuck in a situation where they need help, they would rather die than call someone to come and get them. And that’s pretty much what we did. It was a searing 105 degree day and the flies were hungry. Eventually Craig did call but since it was Easter weekend, no one answered. After about a half hour, we finally got the bus out by ripping out bushes and placing them under the tires (sorry Mother Nature). With minutes to spare we made it to the boat for our afternoon trip. As Nick always says “It’s not the times you are lounging around on the beach or eating a fancy meal that you remember, it’s always the times that things go wrong which make which make the best stories.”


Exhausted from pushing a bus all day, we finally got to relax, feel the cool breeze, and see some amazing things on our glass boat tour. Almost like watching TV, the glass bottom boat provided a clear image of the ocean below as turtles, sea cucumbers, and even a shark appeared beneath the glass. The boat had an upper deck which was perfect for getting a good view of the wild life. At one point we got to go snorkeling in an area known for sharks, and yes, I did swim with a shark! I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of swimming near something you know has the power to kill you and yet is so hard to take your eyes off of. It was an incredible experience that words cannot describe. This is the kind of thing I’ve always dreamed of doing and it was why I wanted to come to Australia. This day was one of the most action-packed days of my life, experiencing up and downs and sharks along the way. 

Thumbnail image for 154741_10150953749190884_523420883_13120582_23234987_n.jpg

Nurse Shark


Sea Turtle


Captain Andrew at the helm

Location: Coral Bay, Australia

Why’s everybody always sittin’ on me?

G’day Mates


Day Three on my adventure was spent at Monkey Mia (I don’t know where the name came from, there were no monkeys). Still weary from the previous day, I arrived at Monkey Mia, a local vacation destination with various activities. At Monkey Mia an amazing natural occurrence takes place every morning. Wild dolphins come to shore on their own free will and accept fish from the local zoologists. It was quite a site to see half a dozen or so dolphins glide up to shore and slowly swim back and forth, obviously showing off to gain everyone’s attention. The zoologists made it clear that they could only feed the dolphins one fish a day and have minimal contact with them in order for the dolphins to remain self reliant in the wild.


Dolphins at Monkey Mia


After the dolphin feeding there were many activities to choose from. I chose to take a boat cruise on the ARISTOCRAT 2 to view the aquatic life. After Nick and I helped raise the sail (kind of), we were able to see dugongs, sea turtles, and the crowd favorite dolphins. The Dolphins came right up to the front of the boat and swam in front of the bow like something out of a movie. There was also a net behind the boat which I road in. It had a tendency to knock off various items of swimwear and I’ll have you know that I was a victim as well. After a freeing ride in the net, we docked back at Monkey Mia.


Nick and I hard at work



Titanic starring Jeff and Andrew

Later that afternoon we visited various landmarks such as Eagles Bluff and Shell beach. Eagles bluff provided an amazing view of the cliffs lining the Indian Ocean. Shell beach, as the name conveys, is a beach made completely of tiny shells. Our scare of the day is when we were greeted by a friendly water snake, which from what I’ve heard is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. The funny thing is its teeth are so far down its throat, a bite would have no effect unless it swallowed your whole hand.


A sand bar made entirely out of shells. It extended about 500 yards into the middle of the ocean.


View from Eagle’s Bluff


The Men


Our evening was finished off with cards, some delicious stir fry and an evening of star gazing out on the Jetty. 

Location: Monkey Mia, Australia, Western Australia

Summer 2012 Cohort

There will be 6 students GeoBlogging during the Summer 2012 semester. Below is a list of their names with links to their individual GeoBlog and the Education Abroad program in which they are enrolled.


Student GeoBlog Education Abroad Program
Ryan Brown Jamaica: Island Sustainability


Student GeoBlog Education Abroad Program
Nadine Gaynor Florence: The World of Business and Italian Culture
Abigail Hudak Marburg: Philipps University
Raquel Phillips HDFS: Rome
Anastasiya Shpakova Pforzheim University

North America

Student GeoBlog Education Abroad Program
Reva Baylets CIC: Quebec, Laval University

Location: State College, PA

The Day of the Dinosaur/Dragon

A personal dream and goal of mine has been to buy a kigurumi in Japan. Basically, it’s like a huge costume of a stuffed animal toy, but warm, comfortable, and generally fun to waddle around in. Way back in Tokyo, my friend Steff and I both finally got to accomplish our goals; we chose tiger and dinosaur. Or dragon, as some people think that my costume could be either.


A little while ago, we had the goodbye party for our Japanese class, and who were we to resist dressing up a little bit and causing general discomfort for Japan for the day? Riding the train and subway to school got me stares and general giggles. Being on campus in the outfit was another story altogether.

536451_10150844784337491_610637490_9655636_1841529196_n.jpg 577993_10150725963598843_520853842_9611121_1259831430_n.jpg

It was basically as if Steff and I were walking to and from class naked, that was the amount of attention and stares we received. Students actually stopped in their tracks to watch us go past, others were bold enough to wave and tell us how cute we were. Another boy actually followed us from the cafeteria to the convenience store on campus to ask us what exactly we were up to (and ended the conversation by urging us to watch anime, of all things). The oddest occurrence of all, however, was being stopped by Nanzan’s fashion club and being submitted to a tiny photoshoot because apparently, they saw our get-ups as “fashionable.”


I had also decided to top off my ridiculousness by being as outlandish as possible, toting around aviator sunglasses, bright yellow star headphones, and a robot bag. Some could potentially argue that I was being bold. I would answer by saying I was wearing pajamas and resembling a clown. As it turns out, we’re going to be included in the next fashion magazine. Lucky us!

Despite it being generally far too warm to wear a fleece bodysuit and enduring far more attention than I thought was possible for an entire day, it was actually almost refreshing to finally have Japanese students find strength in our boldness to actually approach us. My host mother even showed me off to my host father because she thought I looked hilarious. I can now say that after parading around Japan dressed as a dinosaur, there’s not much left for me to do that will potentially harm my dignity. I have done the ridiculous, and I did it with swagger.


Location: Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan


For our final group outing, our RA’s took us to the region of Bo-Kaap in the city.

Bo-kaap trip

 Its right up the street from the business district and as you can see it’s pretty hard to miss.

Bo-Kaap houses

This area holds much historical value to South Africa. Bo-kaap is a Muslim community consisting of generations of descendents of former slaves brought from eastern Africa to serve the Portuguese rest stop in southern Africa. With their many interactions with different people and languages in Southern Africa, the slaves formed the language which is now known as Afrikaans.  I learned from the people of Bo-kaap that their ancestors were also imprisoned at Robben Island long before it was used as a prison during the time of Apartheid. I enjoyed their welcome and felt their sense of community and it shows through their day to day life. Food, music, and color are a big part of their community. Most of all I enjoyed all their spices and amazing SAMOSAS!!!!


I have literally eaten my body weight in samosas and potato balls!!! I plan on buying about 6 packets of masala spices and samosas spices to bring home. Every year the people continue a tradition started by the slave ancestors where they put colorful cloth over their clothes to not be recognized and sing songs about their owners. Now it has become a huge competition in Bo-Kaap where hundreds of band collectively consisting of thousands of people come together and compete. 

Bo-Kaap Houses

Imani charnan and I

Location: cape Town, South Africa


Today my professor came over to our apartment for our first Italian cooking lesson & we made  chocolate tiramisu (which was DELICIOUS). At first I was a little apprehensive because we weren’t using expresso or raw eggs like you’re supposed to, but it ended up being great anyway so I didn’t mind. We split into two groups of 7 and made two batches of tiramisu. (I think my group made the better batch! lol)We watched a movie about the Medici family from Florence after we finished making it so we could put it in the fridge for it to set  for a few hours. 

Here’s the recipe we used!

Semi-Classic Tiramisu


Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Ready In: 2 Hours
Servings: 12


4 eggs, separated (eggs MUST be refrigerated)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
2 packages mascarpone cheese (250 grams)
1 (300 grams) package ladyfingers (Savoiardi)
3 cups espresso (or chocolate milk)
 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder,
for dusting


1. Combine egg yolks, milk, and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. Put in the refrigerator to cool. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
3. Dip the lady fingers in either the espresso or the chocolate milk, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl. Spoon half of the egg filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers and filling layers. Garnish with cocoa. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

And here are some photos of the finished product!
My group’s tiramisu
Tiramisu showdown!
tiramisu 2.jpg
Ciao for now!

Location: Trastevere, Rome, Italy

Oh, but the pitter-patter of tiny feet…

In Japan, it’s fairly common to see huge packs of elementary school kids stomping about in waves of little matching yellow hats and loud yelling. The other day, my JR train was hit with such an attack, filling almost all 6 cars. Despite how adorable and precious kids are, I went out of my way to pick the one least swarming with the tiny little hooligans.

As luck would have it, I picked the train car with the bathroom, which is apparently a course of neverending amusement to kids that age who are on a fieldtrip, but still, only 15 or so kids were in the car, I assumed I could deal. I stood by the doors, reading away, but the second to last stop before my own ended up emptying out the seats nearby. The children rushed to grab them before I did, leaving me standing behind a seat of 4 kids attempting to get into a seat meant for two, and even more tiny bodies crowded around me. All of them were starting to give me curious looks.

Eventually, two girls in the seat were bold enough to catch my eye. Both bowed their head in greeting, and I returned the gesture with a smile. They continue staring, leaning in as close as the back of a train seat would allow. Finally, I say hello, earning a gasp from both of them, the shyer one muttering “Oh, she can speak Japanese…?”

The tide was broken. The unspoken rule of not speaking to the foreigner smashed. The gaggle of boys joined in the conversation, as did the students seated across from me. Where are you from? How long have you been here? They threw out all the American phrases they knew (which, for I’m sorry, thank you, hello, how are you, and it’s nice to meet you, wasn’t half bad. I told them as such.) I threw some back: what year are you guys, are you guys going to school? How’re your English studies coming along?

The rest of the passengers of the train are actually watching me, listening and half-smiling to themselves as I’m bantering with the kids. I still can’t tell if they were testing me or simply amused.

One particular boy was particularly sure of himself, walking up to me to ask me my favorite and least favorite foods.

“Hmm. And least favorite?”
“Natto.” “Natto?! I. Love. Natto.”

To which I protested that it was terrible amongst the laughter of his friends. They were excited when we reach the final station and I tell them I’m getting off as well. As I finally turn, they see some of the One Piece keychains on my bag. The same Nattoboy is apparently a fan as well. As his peers start tugging curiously at parts of my bag, he asks me who my favorite character is. Turns out we like the same guy; he was pretty excited about that.

As we walked through the ticket booths at Kozoji, I turned to go my own way, seeing the childrens’ teachers and not wanting to be a bother. Immediately, a roar of “BYE BYE” washes over me as I walk off. I’m half-way down the station and they’re still yelling my way. It seemed that everyone wanted me to turn around and wave at them. I certainly gave it my best.

It was this sort of curious, inquisitive attitude of children that, in all honesty, is saving Japan. You see many older folks glare foreigners down, half-wishing you weren’t there. Then you have kids, who are bursting with questions, wondering where you’re from, excited to use the handful of English they know on you.

If they can keep that sort of attitude into the next generation, and the next, then Japan surely has a chance of finally opening up and remembering that the rest of the world is not as monogamous as theirs. While at the same time, with a smile and a friendly conversation, one can see that perhaps we’re not so different after all.

Location: Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, Japan

Do you have a story to tell?

Writing Contest_EA Logo.jpg
The Penn State Education Abroad Office, in partnership with State College magazine, is excited to announce the inaugural Penn State Study Abroad Writing Contest. The winner of this contest will be published in the October 2012 issue of State College magazine. This is an excellent opportunity to communicate your experiences to a broad audience and be published in a professional magazine.

As GeoBloggers, I know that you all have an interest in expressing yourselves and your time abroad through writing. This contest is a chance for you to channel your international experience into a creative outlet. 

Click here for more details and to find out how to enter!

Location: Penn State University, University Park, Education Abroad Office