Friday, December 30, 2011

I PET A LION CUB and other adventures

Sorry, I meant to update this before we left South Africa but I never got around to it so now this post is going to be looong. The past couple weeks have been crazy busy! I guess I’ll start back at Cape Town.

It was a great weekend! Cape Town is huge. We stayed at a really cool hostel with tons of murals all over the walls and each room had a different theme. We all stayed in one room, the “cosmos” room, which was probably the least interesting theme because it pretty much looked like a little girl’s room, but still. On the first day we walked down to the waterfront, which is sort of like a boardwalk area with lots of shops and naval ships sitting around. We went to the aquarium and found a movie theater which was SO exciting since we haven’t seen a movie in months. We watched the new Twilight movie, which was awful, but being in the theater was enough. We took a train to Simonstown to see the African penguins chillin’ on the beach. The train ride was pretty cool, too – when we bought our tickets the lady at the counter was so shocked that we wanted third class but it was not that uncomfortable and it was interesting to see all the musicians and vendors who came through. We went to the beautiful Kirstenbosch gardens and caught a free concert on this huge lawn there. We also visited the Company Gardens and had a picnic on the beach one night. Arden and Sarah got tattoos at a place we found in town, and Katie and I got our noses pierced. Just a little stud, but I’m a bit nervous that it’s going to be hard to take care of here in India. So far it’s fine, though. I wasn’t sure I liked it when I first got it but it’s definitely growing on me! It’s nice to have it in India for a while because tons of people here have one, so I totally blend right in. But anyway we tried to go out to the supposedly great clubs in Cape Town one night but had little success. One place we went into was packed with people, really busy, and then like five minutes after our arrival it was deserted – we must have killed the vibe – it was hilarious. So overall the trip was great, except that everything was expensive so now I’m broke. And except that on the drive back our bus kept overheating and so our 8-hour ride turned into an 11-hour ordeal with no air conditioning. And none of the windows opened. It was so hot we couldn’t move. Quote of the trip was Chris, “I feel sticky enough to climb a wall.”

We returned to Plett and after a few days had our media project presentations to the community, and a farewell braai (of course there was a braai, there’s ALWAYS a braai). Kayce and Amanda made dirt pudding for dessert – in case you are unfamiliar with this DELICIOUS dish it is chocolate pudding with mashed up oreos and gummy worms, basically the best thing ever. The media projects turned out well and it was a fun farewell celebration. We said goodbye to our caregivers which was sad, and the next morning we said goodbye to our host families and left for Enrichment Week!

Oh, but before we left Mijal and I managed a little wreckage in our host family’s (Daniel and Chrissy’s) house. There was one day when Mijal was working on her media project late so she told me to listen for her yell outside the gate of our apartments so I could let her in. I was getting anxious because she hadn’t come home and so when I heard her outside I was running to get the clicker to open the gate and hurrying outside to let her in and failed to notice that the sliding glass door was closed. I ran straight into it and popped it right out of the door frame! Before I even knew what had happened I found myself standing outside, holding this heavy door with a big smudge from my forehead on it. I was torn between uncontrollable laughter and panic – Daniel and Chrissy were out running errands and I had to fix the door before they came home! So I’m yelling at Mijal to come help me quickly, meanwhile we’re both doubled over in laughter, and just as we are hoisting the door up to try to jam it back into the frame, Daniel and Chrissy pulled up in the driveway. Oops. Luckily they just laughed at me and we were able to fix the door. Then another day Mijal was trying to do a pull-up on a pull-up bar in the house and she was doing great, pulled herself all the way up, and then it came off the wall and plummeted to the ground with her still hanging on. It was pretty funny. She was fine, by the way.

But yes, enrichment week. We spent it at Addo National Park. Highlights of the week included hanging out at our NICE lodge which was tucked away near a bunch of lemon orchards and a river, beautiful. We played games on Christmas and watched some of the new season of The Office, went to the reptile and raptor center and held some horrifying boa constrictors. One of the best parts was the cheetah center where we got to cuddle with lion cubs and a cheetah cub. SO CUTE. We went on a full day safari and saw lions, tons of elephants, a rhino, and lots of warthogs which are surprisingly adorable. They have to kneel down on their forearms to drink! We spent one day kayaking in a river and another hiking to a cool cave with waterfalls and having a picnic lunch at a beautiful waterhole. It was an awesome week.

Then we left for India! The travel was awful so when we arrived at our families we had slept like 3 hours in the past who knows how long, it was so disorienting. During our long layover in Mumbai we all laid out on the floor of the airport and crashed – typical homeless TBB students. We were surprised to find out that we weren’t in our host families alone – I’m with Julia in the Gupta family’s home! They are very friendly and can understand English which is nice. They mostly speak Hindi, though, which we are picking up word by word. We had one Hindi lesson today and we’ll definitely need it to get around Jaipur. Our house has a nice terrace on the roof where our host brother says he’ll teach us to fly kites. He’s also going to teach us to play cricket. So far the food here has been delicious. My favorite has been this potato thing we had for breakfast that was kind of like a hash brown but with vegetables in it. There’s lots of chai tea, all the time, and curries. I’m impressed with myself for liking it all. Also, our house is about a five minute walk from the famous Laxmi Narayan Temple, which is huge and completely white marble with tons of carvings. Julia and I walked there on our first day. Our host sister has told us there is a gym nearby too, which we plan on investigating, because I definitely need it…

We have a lot to look forward to. We had our first seminar on education today. We’re trying to answer questions like “Does everyone need the same education?” “Who decides what is taught?” “Are students and teachers equal?” We’re starting our work project soon – we’re running three different projects, stuff like teaching English to disadvantaged kids and teaching computer skills to women. It’ll be interesting. I’m also excited for New Years Eve – our family is taking us to a party on someone’s roof terrace. They say it’ll have a DJ and that we probably won’t get back till like two in the morning – yeah, gettin’ crazy here! The Kite Festival in Jaipur is also coming up soon, hopefully we’ll learn before then so we can join! Julia and I are also going shopping with our host sisters to find some Indian garb, they all wear beautiful colors here. Plus they’ve got these killer socks that have a space between the big toe and other toes so you can comfortably wear your socks with your sandals. I fully intend to score some of those. And of course there’s tons more to look forward to but I’ll save it for later!

Happy New Years to everyone!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Howzit?




Howzit is how English speakers here always greet each other, haha, I'm so cultural. Or molo, that's Xhosa hello. Actually I should say molweni because that's plural hello. I know, you're impressed. That's almost the extent of the Xhosa I can pronounce though so...

Happy birthday to Dad Mai who requested a blog post as his birthday present. Love ya paps

Since I last wrote....

South Africa has continued to be incredible. I've learned so much. Our work in the townships has made the HIV/AIDS epidemic so so real. We're learning to understand HIV as more than a virus, but also the social, economic, cultural, and historical context that makes it such a challenge here. Just treatment and prevention aren't enough to fight an epidemic without taking into account the environment in which it's spreading. Poverty, gender inequality, infrastructure, lack of educational and economic opportunities, cultural beliefs about AIDS and treatment, the historical legacy of apartheid, and so many other factors contribute.

December 1st was World AIDS Day and we planned an event to raise awareness on the beach in Plett. It was pretty difficult because we were in the middle of Plett rage, so almost all the beach-goers were high school graduates who were there to party and difficult to engage with in meaningful conversation. Arden, Julia, and I walked around trying to get people to come to our booth and talk about the epidemic by offering red ribbon facepaint which was actually very popular. It was fun

We also went bungee jumping last weekend!! Off the highest bungee bridge in the world, 216 meters which is over 700 feet. It was INSANE! The jumping order was randomly selected by the staff there so I ended up having to go first which made me even more nervous. I was freaking out. After I got tied up by my ankles they scooted me over to the edge of the bridge and counted down from five. They counted really fast though, which was good because I didn't have time to think and I just jumped! It was an amazing experience! The first few seconds were unlike anything I've felt before, since you can't feel the bungee cord yet and it seems like you're literally flying. No whip lash but my ankles did feel like they were going to fall off because the rope was so tight. Gah, incredible.

We have also gone on more beautiful hikes in the area. One really cool one was the Robberg Peninsula where we saw tons of seals on the beach. It is all gorgeous.

It's hard to believe we only have about a week and a half left in Plettenberg Bay! We have made so many funny friends, such as King, the guy who works at the movie rental store, or Keira, who owns what we all call "the smoothie place." Or the kids we met on the beach during Plett rage. I'll miss our rounds with the patients - it has been great to actually see some of them start to feel better while we've been here. And of course the quirky nurses at the clinic and my caregiver Sindiswa. We still have some time together, though, too soon to be sad.

Getting really excited for Independent Student Travel weekend, we're taking a bus to Cape Town for a few days. I'll tell you about it in the next post. Till then, please email me or message me or something because I miss everyone and I know more than a couple of you said you would write! Love from South Africa

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Weeks in South Africa

I think we are actually on week three in South Africa? Not sure but it is definitely flying by so far.

We are living in Plettenberg Bay, which is right on the beach and it is BEAUTIFUL! The beach is only a 20 minute or so walk away from the house. Plett is really nice, very touristy, and it's weird to have the luxuries of a movie rental store and a big grocery store (ahh so many choices) within a short walk. Mijal and I are living with a young South African married couple, Daniel and Chrissy, whose first language is Afrikaans but their English is really good.

In the mornings Mijal and I both catch a taxi to a township called Kurland, aka the Crags, where we follow our caregivers from house to house visiting patients. My caregiver's name is Sindisua. Whenever she's with patients or even talking about her job she just lights up, I can tell she loves her work. We usually walk around visiting 4 or 5 patients a day, and it's cool to start to know the patients and who you're seeing on what day and everything. I enjoy the work but it is my first time seeing really sick people and it's definitely hard. I've gotten to take blood pressure and blood sugar and easy stuff like that but that's kind of all I can do other than smile. There's a language barrier with most of the patients, who either speak Afrikaans (sort of like Dutch but African) or Xhosa (the language with tons of clicks that sounds totally foreign). I'm picking up some basic phrases in the languages but not enough to really have a conversation with non-English speakers! Possibly the hardest thing for me has been seeing some of the housing conditions, which vary a lot in Kurland. There is some government housing that's pretty nice, but many people live in "informal housing" which are basically shacks made out of tin or wood and lined with cardboard or newspaper for insulation. People share spigots and bathrooms outside their houses. It bothers me so much, yet some of my happiest, most positive patients live in these houses. Anyway, next week we get to go help out at the women's shelter there, so I'm excited for that. After lunch every day our taxi picks us back up (our taxi driver and friend, Graiwin, plays some pretty awesome jams) and we drive 20 minutes back into Plett, back to the beautiful homes and tourists on the beach - it's kind of shocking how close the two communities are.

In the afternoons we walk down to our seminar space which is right on the beach (literally the classroom is a little hut in the sand and you can hear the waves). We're (obviously) studying public health and the HIV/AIDS epidemic here and the seminars have been really interesting. We've been discussing questions like "why has sub-Saharan Africa been hit so much harder than other regions of the world," "why is it so difficult to prevent the spread of a preventable disease," and, as always, "what is development?" We've drawn a lot of connections to the history of South Africa and Apartheid and the current public health system. It's all very thought-provoking and there is always SO much reading to do for the next seminar.

This weekend we had Thanksgiving at Rocky Road, which is the retreat center where we had orientation. We had a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner complete with turkey and mashed potatoes and everything, plus mac n cheese YUM. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be here, learning so much with an amazing group of people, and for my family and friends back home. We also went to Monkeyland on Thanksgiving, which is like a reserve for monkeys that are taken from captivity and sort of being rehabilitated to live in the wild. We got SO CLOSE to SO MANY MONKEYS and they were so cute. We took another beautiful hike and also had a guest speaker come talk to us about Apartheid and its end and the future for South Africa.

We also went paintballing for Tom's birthday last week, which was really fun despite the drizzling rain. Everyone got pretty into it and now we're sporting some gruesome bruises.

Next week we're going bungee jumping off the highest bungee bridge in the world (if the rain ever stops)! So much to look forward to, I'm loving South Africa. Hope everyone at home is doing well!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hikes









I thought I was overdue to put pictures on this blog so here are some photos from the various hikes we've taken. One is Pichincha in Ecuador. There's also Machu Picchu and then the hike that we just took like two days ago in South Africa during orientation, called the Salt River hike. BEAUTIFUL these really don't do it justice.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Peru & the Inca Trail!






I conquered the Inca trail YEAH!!

Because it was definitely a challenge. Four days of crazy hiking. It was a lot fancier than I thought it´d be though - the food! We had like 3 course meals and tea time at 5 every day! We even had pancakes with dulce de leche one morning YUM. Plus we got hot water to wash our hands/feet/faces which was amazing.

But what was REALLY amazing was the porters! Our group of 12 had 18 porters carrying all our tents, groceries, sleeping bags, propane, everything. And they literally RUN up the mountain with so so so much stuff on their backs. They´re incredible! We also had two tour guides named Socrates and Jesus, no joke. They were really funny. We played bananagrams with them one night. I learned a ton from Socrates about the Incan culture and architecture, like the Andean cross or chacana which is really complicated and has a symbol in it for just about every part of Incan life. Crazy.

So seeing those porters sprinting up the mountains in FLIP FLOPS was especially awe-inspring because we were strugglin´ hard core. Day 2 was for sure the hardest, even though it wasn´t the longest, because we had to climb over the highest pass. It´s called Dead Woman´s Pass because from the bottom it´s supposed to look like a dead woman or something, but also because once you have climbed over it you are dead. And your legs are shaking and your face is frozen off because it has been raining all day and the wind is cruel. Day 3 was the longest but at that point we were all going a bit crazy which made it easier. Karelle, Sarah, Conner, Arden and I were bringing up the rear and dubbed ourselves the mountain goats. This mental strategy was literally the only thing that got me through day 3 because mountain goats NEVER get tired. Jesus stayed at the back with us the whole time and probably thought we were insane because we were singing and making animal noises and laughing hysterically. We decided that we need t-shirts that say ¨Mountain goats want s´mo¨. Also if we had a band it would be called Jesus and the Mountain Goats.

When we finally got to Machu Picchu on day 4 I was dead tired but it was still beautiful! We visited a ton of the temple ruins and saw where the Inca (king) lived and all the fountains and places where they´d do sacrifices and stuff. It´s amazing that the Incans had to move all those rocks to make their buildings. HUGE rocks. And we thought we had it bad hauling rocks on our mountains in the ´Walp!

Then we took a bus down to the town Aguas Calientes where we gorged ourselves on a buffet lunch. Later we took a beautiful train ride back to Cuzco. Did I mention that none of us had showered in the past 4 days of trekking. So we reeked pretty bad.

Then we had today to recover in Cuzco (DO LAUNDRY YAY) before we leave tomorrow for the longest day of travel - Peru to South Africa. I think it is like five flights or something. W0o0o0o thats all I can write now because the internet here is awful and this has to post so I can go pack hokay sorry bye

Monday, October 24, 2011

News from the Walp

OK a lot has happened in and around Atahualpa (aka the ‘Walp) in the last couple weeks so please excuse my rambling.

We’ve gone on a couple really fun weekend/day trips. The first was the soccer game against Venezuela at the stadium in Quito. It was SO fun and crazy crowded, just a sea of yellow jerseys. We got little Ecuador flags painted on our faces and Ecuador won! Very exciting but on the way out we got completely squished in the crowd and someone nicked my iPod from my pocket. Which was totally my fault, I should have left it in the ‘Walp, but I was still pretty mad.

We also went to Otavalo, which has a cute crafts market where we spent HOURS emptying our pockets. We also saw a cockfight (nauseating) and went to a night club. The club was utterly hilarious – it was actually a private birthday party but we (five of us) got ushered in anyway since half of us were blonde Americans. Literally every eye in the building was on us and we had a ton of fun.

Ate guinea pig the other day, mmmm.

This weekend was Independent Student Travel weekend. Karelle, Conner, Sarah and I went to Banos and it was such a success. The first night we went on a night tour of the volcano nearby (we couldn’t see anything, and the “fire show” afterwards was a joke, I was laughing so hard I cried). We also biked to the waterfalls outside of Banos and hiked down so we were right next to them, it was beautiful. We gorged ourselves on food from Casa Hood, the best restaurant ever ever, ever. On our way back to Atahualpa we tried to make a stop at the mitad del mundo (where you can be in both hemispheres at once) and we paid for the taxi, and for the taxi to get into the parking lot, but then we were too poor to pay to enter the actual site. So we stood about 300 meters from the mitad del mundo! Too good.

Back in ‘Walp sweet ‘Walp, our work project is coming along. We’ve finished fixing up the pathways for tourists and started building a greenhouse for the community. It’s pretty cool because we’re involved in every step of the process, from hoeing the land for the structure to building the tables and setting them up inside. It’s not completed yet but it’s pretty close. Kind of frustrating because I want to finish it but for the last two days we’ve been (literally, I kid you not) hauling rocks down the mountain. Huge sacks of gravel. We are not happy about this. The goal is to build a bridge across the waterfall so people won’t have to straddle it like we do. The work is EXHAUSTING, I miss the greenhouse!

We also took a day to go to the elementary school in Atahualpa and paint a mural, which is oh so beautiful, hopefully pictures to come, which focuses on protecting the environment.

Our media projects are almost done – we’re supposed to finish today – so links to those should be coming out soon! Get excited because this project has taken a lot out of us.

Can’t believe our time is almost up in the ‘Walp. We leave in 3 days! I am going to miss my sweet host family (my sister is knitting me a scarf!) and all the rice. Headed to Peru for the Inca trail in a week!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Life in Atahualpa

(sorry this is long)

Wow, I can’t believe this is only day 8 in Atahualpa, Ecuador! It seems like we’ve been here for much longer!

I don’t even know where to begin describing the experience so far. I think I’ll just try to give you a day-in-the-life overview:

3:00 AM – wake up to dogs killing attacking each other in the street or to a truck honking or to the host family doing who knows what around the house

6:00 AM – get out of bed, or else my sweet host mom will come in worrying about me! Then breakfast with host mom and sister Elisa, probably bread or a fried pancake-like thing called tortas, and cafĂ© of course.

7:30 – the truck to take me to work is supposed to be here but I’ll wait until 7:50 for it to arrive, then grab my day pack and a shovel and head out. The truck will either take us like 30 feet to a little trail down to the waterfalls, or a good ten minute ride to the mountain slopes. Either way we’ve been fixing up the rocky dirt trails around the community to make them safer and easier for community members and tourists. The trail down to the waterfalls is especially treacherous with random cliffs and loose rocks, all on a super steep slope! We’ve dubbed it the Trail of Tears. For four hours we’ll hoe and shovel away the terrain, with our 25 minute snack break (usually a couple bananas from home) in there of course. Then we make our way BACK up to the road where the trucks are. This is the hard part and we all have a suspicion that we aren’t really on a gap year after all, but a global fat camp, because it is seriously so so so difficult to climb back up to the top!

12:30 PM – get back to my house for lunch with host mom and possibly other family members. Probably rice with fried potatoes and maybe something else like a fish that still has its head on it, or pig skin soup, yum? And tomato juice.

1:30 PM – get my stuff together and head down for the 40 minute walk into the center of Atahualpa. Meet up with the North Shore Crew (other TBBers living near me way up on the hill) along the way. I’m the furthest one away but there are a couple people close to me so that’s nice.

2:10 PM – arrive in town and begin our feast on junk food which we totally earned that morning. Favorites include ice cream things that are basically like Dibs if you know what that is, only it’s usually too cold for that, in which case I go for the Cua Cuas which are like little chocolate wafers.

2:30 PM – our seminar or media project work period begins. The theme for Ecuador, like I said, is the environment and so far I have learned a ton about how I personally impact the environment, how society becomes environmentally destructive, what can be done, etc. Today we are making our own policies, long term ones of 30 years, to regulate environmental impact – or something like that. Our media projects are presentations that we started working on to show what we’ve learned. My group chose ecotourism in Atahualpa and we are always REALLY busy interviewing community members and trying to put our project together. It’s kind of ridiculous.

5:15 PM – head back to my host family’s house, arrive in time for dinner with everyone. Then hang out with the fam for a while. I have some pretty cute host nephews, especially the 5 year old Nilan who loves to beat me at marbles and try on my glasses. My maybe-10-year-old nephew Alexander (or Gigi for short?) loves singing “My Humps” and saying “trick or treat” since we talked about Halloween. They’re entertaining. My host family is really so nice and accommodating. They taught me to make tortas and helped me do my laundry (Nicaragua flashback of cleaning clothes on rocks!). They took me to the local pool last weekend (I know, Atahualpa is POSH) which was FRIGID but fun. I also milked cows with them on Saturday.

8:30 PM – finish up the billion chapters of readings I have for tomorrow’s seminars and go to bed. Maybe use our electric shower, try not to get shocked!

So that’s a typical day… We are in the process of MAYBE acquiring tickets to the Ecuador vs. Venezuela soccer game on Friday which would be SO fun. This weekend is our last with our families because the next two weekends we will be travelling – to a local crafts market and then we have Independent Student Travel where we can basically choose to go wherever we want as long as we plan it ourselves. I’m excited!

Hopefully you’ll be able to see a great finished media project about ecotourism soon! Until then you know I’m crazy busy at global fat camp and having fun. I miss everyone bunches. Enjoy your fluffy bath towels for me!

Oh – also – my Spanish is definitely getting better! Even though I’m sure I’m butchering all the verbs I still am managing to converse with the host fam about politics and the history of Ecuador and its current president, Correa. Interesting stuff. We also have 4 dogs who hate me the end.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ecuador!


We have been in Quito for 5 days and we are leaving in about 20 minutes to go to our homestay families!
We've been staying at la Mision Carmelita, a mission, which at first seemed really cool but then at night it seemed REALLY creepy because of all these glow in the dark rosaries and the bathroom kept making weird noises and we are locked in at night and basically it was terrifying. It's haunted and my roommate Sarah started writing a screenplay of a bunch of travelling kids who stay at a mission and get haunted by ghosts, it was hilarious and very accurate.

Anyway, these past days we have been doing a lot of reading and more seminars. The theme for our time in Ecuador is environment. We also have been taking Spanish lessons during the day.

But we also do fun stuff - we took a walking tour of the old town part of quito. It was really pretty with tons of old buildings and churches. We saw the Basilica and another church with this myth about it that the builder made a deal with the devil to give away his soul in return for the construction of the church, but he hid one of the bricks so the church was technically never completed and he totally duped the devil, lawlz.

We had a movie night of "Top Gun" which was the best worst movie I have ever seen. Everyone was cracking up the whole time and we gave ourselves fighter jet names. Meet C-Rex, nice to meet you.

We also watched a film called "The Corporation" which has more to do with our learning theme. It was interesting. It fits in with a ton of articles and chapters we've read about corporate responsibilities for cleanup and stuff.

We bought work gloves and boots for our project in our homestay community. We're going to be fixing up trails in the forest for sustainable ecotourism and possibly planting trees as well. We got spraypaint and decorated our boots which are now FABULOUS! Mine are gold with glitter. Laboring in style.

Anyway, we are heading out to Atahualpa (our homestay community) soon and I don't know when I'll have internet again. I'm excited but also a little nervous! I'm sure I will be comparing it to Nicaragua the whole time (holla to my AMIGOS peeps and partner Ali) but I will try not to!! Miss everyone!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll think of a title later





Hey everyone, still alive and thought I should do another blog post while I still can!

Costa rica is still pretty awesome. The other day we went to this little store that Mijal found and bought popsicles and went down this little road to the beach that some guy recommended. It ended up being ridiculously muddy and huge puddles/lakes that we had to try to skirt around, and then we finally ended up at this gate which was someone's house? but no one was there so we went through and ended up with a beautiful view of the beach. We've been down to see the sunset a couple times since that and went swimming at dusk which was way cool despite us getting in the way of all the surfers.



We also went ziplining which I had actually already done on a family trip to Costa Rica but I still had a blast. We were way high up above the canopy and you could see monkeys (howler monkeys! which are surprisingly small and everywhere) and miles of mountains and forest.




A side note for swimteam people - I introduced the idea of the imaginary (but so real) scapegoat, Dana, to the group and it has totally taken off. Meet Jordan who has already put a scorpion on Sarah and swapped out insect repellant for insect attractant among other things. GAH Jordan.

Anyway aside from all the fun things we've been doing we're also still having tons of seminars/discussions. One of the main themes has been "what is development." Tomorrow we are having a debate between the theories introduced in two books we read (The End of Poverty and The White Man's Burden), basically between the idea that the West has the means and responsibility to end poverty in the world through foreign aid, and the idea that the West's efforts do more harm than good. It'll be interesting because I'm debating on the side that I don't completely agree with... Anyway we're also currently reading Savages by Joe Kane and the other night we watched a cool film called "Baraka," which an Islamic word that means the thread that weaves all persons together. I really like that idea... It had no words, only images, and was very cool. I'd recommend it if you're in a deep-thought mood.

Tomorrow we are having a pool party/cookout with grilled veggies and chicken at the nice pool in the hostel. Very excited.

Miss y'all, thinking of everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Costa Rica Pics









I haven't taken a lot but Julia is letting me put up some of hers too so enjoy!
Also I didn't really explain but right now I am just at orientation. It's 2 weeks of fun stuff in addition to beginning our curriculum. We actually just had another seminar over the topic "Who Are You?" and we're doing a couple of readings as well. The homestays and volunteer work will start once we get to the core countries (Ecuador in a week in a half!) and the curriculum stuff will continue of course.
OK here you go!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pura Vida y'all

COSTA RICA!
Day 3 and it seems like I've been here forever. Not in a bad way, there's just a lot of stuff packed into every day.
Starting from the beginning - all 11 students and 3 program leaders met up at the airport in Houston and flew out together on Saturday. It was weird because we'd all stalked each other on Facebook and also because we knew we'd be hanging out for 8 months... but all good. We got to our hostel in Costa Rica and the girls spent a while exploring because this hostel was sweet! We discovered a random guy semi-passed out in front of our room (which had A/C!! YES), a TV room where we made a bean bag mountain, and a cool little balcony thing that looked out on the sketchy park outside. We had our first Costa Rican meal for dinner: PIZZA! Which was delicious but we were all exhausted and crashed pretty much immediately after.
On Sunday we woke up pretty early, had breakfast and set out on a little tourist bus to make it to our next hostel which was a 5 hour ride away. I was trying to stay awake for the whole thing because of the beautiful costa rican mountains and jungley scenery but I did fall asleep - until one of our back tires blew out! We made it to a little cafe thing where we got plantain chips and drinks while the guys and the bus driver fixed the wheel. Then back on the road with one more stop for lunch and groceries. And then we got to THIS hostel, which is EVEN BETTER!

It's called Mauna Loa, so beautiful! It has an awesome pool with little fountains and tons of hammocks and cool lights and animals all over the place. We got put in our rooms which are little like mini houses with bathrooms and all. Julia and I got a room to ourselves and everyone else is in a room of 3 which works out well for us - no lines for showers and we get big beds! We took a dip in the pool and had our first seminar on Sunday night.

The seminar was over: What is development? Which was really interesting - lots of people contributing different ideas and the conversation went on for like over an hour.

Today we learned to surf on the beach that’s a short walk from the hostel! The walk is through this section of protected mangroves which are SO cool and it’s just a bunch of boards holding up the path. The surf instructors were awesome and I got up on the board a ton! Twice without their helping me, too. I was really impressed with myself. Will definitely be doing that again! We also had discussions about responsibilities and stuff but that’s not fun. We played charades after dinner… yeah

More posts to come! We are playing ultimate Frisbee on the beach tomorrow and if you know me you know that this will be a challenge for me!

Having a ton of fun, miss everyone!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

T Minus Four Days

Change makes me really uncomfortable. I got mad when my mom swapped the curtains at our house, I love the little routines in my day, I eat pretty much the same things all the time (apples, milk, carrots), I live for traditions with family and friends. This is probably why saying goodbye to everyone for the last few days (or month, really) has been so difficult. It's hard to believe that in 4 - oh god less than a week - days I will be leaving my house, my bed, my phone, my hometown for 8 months. I already said goodbyes to my family in Paris (crazy), and now with everyone headed back to college from labor day weekend, it's really sinking in that I won't see anyone until next summer. Can't stop imagining all the good times my friends will have when they see each other over Thanksgiving break when I'm in Peru, and my family having Christmas without me... I have this totally irrational - I guess - fear that everyone is going to forget me while I'm gone (pleeeeaasseee hang out with mee!).

But I just have to say thank you to ALL my family and friends who made this summer awesome. It's really a blessing that I have so much to miss next year.

So, my emotional turmoil being said, I am REALLY excited to be heading off on this adventure. I have been waiting for this all year, after all - it is definitely going to be an incredible experience. Other than that I don't really know what to expect! I'll try to update this thing as often as I can... PLEASE comment or email me or facebook me or SOMETHING with news from home. Next time I write on this I'll be in Costa Rica! Wo0o0o0o0o

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's Actually Happening

Look at me writing a blog. I'm officially my mother. Ha

Guess what I got last week... an e-mail with the list of names of the other 11 kids going on this 8 month adventure with me. I'd been waiting for this e-mail forever! It made everything seem a lot more real and I'm freaking out just a little bit! I'm excited and nervous and not sure what to expect, but it's finally starting to hit me that I'm actually going through with this. (info on the side as to what I'm going through with)

Oh by the way, I named this blog badwithmaps because I literally have the worst sense of direction of anyone I know, I'm always lost, so it's funny that I'm going to be doing a lot of travelling and stuff... I mean, haha, get it?

I'm hoping this year will give me a better understanding of the world, and people in general, and some idea of what I want to do with my life. I hope it is challenging, incredible, motivating and unforgettable. Just thinking about what I am going to do and see and learn is making me fidgety!

But I am going to miss everybody and everything so much! Since I'm out of town for almost all of August, this is my month to pack and all I can think about is which pictures to bring. When I get back we are all going to be a year older but I hope we stay the same - that is, together! I love everyone!

That's all for now, I just wanted to get this set up before I leave. I'll be writing here during the year so put in your email at the bottom right if you want to be updated on what I'm doing. That's you mom and dad! OK bye y'all!