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I’m pleased to introduce you to WOU’s photoblog for students who are studying or interning abroad. I invite you to follow our students on their journeys from pre-departure preparation through the return home.
Photoblogging is a wonderful way for students to share what they are learning, observing, and discovering in their new environments. Enjoy the journey with them!
WOU’s photoblog is modeled on the Australian “Bringing the Learning Home” project developed by Jan Gothard, Greg Downey, Tonia Gray, and Linda Butcher, and with their permission, utilizes some of the materials from that project. http://ozstudentsabroad.com/
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It’s hard to believe that my time here in Barcelona is coming to an end. I just have this week and then its finals week. I am almost wishing I would have decided to stay through one more weekend after finals to hangout with other people in my program. I have become to close to other students in my CISabroad program and BarcelonaSAE, It feels like i’ve know these people my whole life. Leaving them and not knowing when i’ll see them next will be one of the hardest things about leaving Barcelona.
Since I had so much homework this week I didn’t get a chance to explore Barcelona much this week, but I did find out about a local hangout and awesome view point called “Bunker del Carmel.” I had time between classes one day and decided to take the easy hike up there, and oh was it worth it. It’s the best view point i’ve seen since to date of Barcelona. It made the Sagrada Familia look small! I could see the whole entire city, and I could see all the different barrios (neighborhoods).
photo 1 (5) photo 2 (5)
photo 3 (8) photo
I also treated myself to a “fish pedi” this week, which I think may be illegal in the US? Not quite sure, but it was one of the strangest things i’ve ever done! It felt so weird knowing fish were bitting off dead skin on my feet, It took me a minute or so to stop laughing. I also went to a local brunch restaurant called “Brunch and Cake” where they only serve bunch, and all day. It was one of the best meals i’ve had in Barcelona!
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I can’t believe the time is finally here. I felt that each day was an eternity, and that this time would never come but now that it is here I am wishing for just a few more days, and it seems it went by so fast.
Before coming to Peru I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone, and that I would miss my family. Turns out I could communicate really well, my spanish improved so much in the time I have been here, but yes I did miss my family the entire time. Coming here was a shock to me because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how the weather is, the people are, the economy, nothing. So it was a huge challenge to get used to these things that are so different than what I was used to.
While being here I met many great people, and many that I won’t miss even a little bit. I think that happens everywhere though. I was placed with an AMAZING host family who definitely made a huge impact in my time abroad. They made me part of their family and cared for me as if I was one of their own. My family and myself appreciate them so much and all they have done for me.
Throughout my time here in Peru, I was faced with many challenges and rough times and I felt that I absolutely couldn’t wait to get home. As time went on I realized that I am so thankful for being able to experience these things because they made me appreciate so much what I have to come home to- my university, my home, my family, and security. I am really looking forward to going home because my appreciation for everything is so much more now that it was before. I can’t wait to hug my mom and my dad, and see my cat, sleep in my own bed, eat taco bell….all those things :) It is so bittersweet because I am leaving behind some amazing people, but I know I will see them again in life.
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So I decided it would be nice to do a blog about the Christmas traditions here in Aix because they are interesting and so different from ours in the US. One of the most southern things about France at Christmas time is that there are a ton of Christmas markets! It is kind of like a Saturday market but open from mid-November until Christmas. Here in Aix they do a a sort of fair where there are rides for the younger kids. They also have special foods like vin chaud d’Alsace which is hot wine with extra spices from the Alsace region of France. Alsace along with Lorraine were sections of France that were added later, so a lot of French people do not consider these regions as being a “real part of France”. They were under control of Germany before and therefore have very strong German influences. There are also other special Christmas foods like cotton candy which are called Santa beards, sugar covered sweet pretzels, and chocolate heads which are a waffle cracker with a big marshmallow on it covered in chocolate. I can say that I have tried them all, and they are all very good! I have even tried a pomme d’amour or “apple of love” which is a candied apple. It is named after the Disney movie Snow White where the witch candies a green apple very red for Snow White and only True Love can break the spell of the sleeping death!
One of the most Provencal decorations for Christmas here are Santons. Santons are hand sculpted clay figurines that are then painted by hand. The way that you start a collection here is pretty interesting. The first year you are supposed to buy the nativity scene with the basic Mary, Joseph, baby Christ in the manger, the donkey, the cow, and the angel plus the barn. This is a pretty expensive investment, as because everything is made by hand to get just those basics is about the US equivalent of about a hundred dollars. It is a very expensive collection! The year after you buy the basics, you are supposed to buy the three wise men and the angel. Then the following years you buy one item to add to your collection. One figurine is anywhere from 6-12 euros each, so it is more do-able after you have the initial start up. At all of the Christmas markets here you can easily find Santons. They are breakable so I haven’t bought any and don’t plan on it before I leave, but they are very fun to look at in each shop. They come in different sizes and are very cool!
Another tradition here, it planting wheat on the fourth of December which is the day of the feast of Saint Barbe. The idea of planting wheat is that if it grows tall by Christmas, then the next harvest in France will be bountiful. But it also predicts if you will have good fortune in the coming year. Traditionally, you also are supposed to put the grown wheat on the table as a centerpiece on Christmas day or you can use it to decorate your nativity scene. My host mom planted hers with my host brother, who is her grandson. I am kind of excited to watch it grow because I wonder how quickly or how tall it will really grow! My host mom says it should be more than 5 inches tall before I leave in two weeks so it must grow fast!
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I finally got around to seeing Gaudi’s church or otherwise known as La Sagrada Familia, and it happens to be maybe a 10 minute walk from my apartment so I see it from the outside all the time. Seeing it from the inside was just crazy, Gaudi’s work is almost unreal. Everything is so detailed, unique, and properly placed. The stain glass windows on the inside illuminate shades of a rainbow through out the church, which just adds to its beauty. The work on the church began on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task that he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.
It felt like I had just returned from Morocco when I had to turn around and repack for my next trip! Myself and two other girls in my program decided to do a “mini Eastern Europe” tour for our final weekend of traveling. We flew to Vienna from Barcelona and wow is it beautiful! Reminded me a lot of Paris, just smaller but equally as “posh.” We visited a few churches and a house that was known as the “tree house” and walked around the city. The next night we went to Prague and it was an interesting city, we walked up and thru the Prague castle, saw the John Lennon wall, and the “old town” of the city, but didn’t get to see as much as we’d like since we only had one day.
The next two days were spent in Budapest, which was definitely my favorite of the three! Everyone we met was so nice and welcoming. The buildings/neighborhoods were beautiful, food was good, and there was a lot to do. We visited the parliament, a cave church, walked around town, and went to a bathhouse. A bathhouse can vary by definition, but the one we went to in Budapest was like a huge outdoor hot tub that people hang out in, but also a spa. We all got massages, it was so relaxing. The parliament was really fun to tour actually, we got the tour in spanish to challenge ourselves…it was still quite hard to understand. I originally didn’t plan on making this trip, mostly because I had no interest or any idea what there was to do or see in these countries/cities. I am so glad that I did go though, I saw some beautiful places and learned a lot about these countries. It also hit me that my time to leave is fast approaching, and I don’t want to leave! Three months have passed by way too fast.
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Yesterday was the last trip that I am taking with the school here. Our first stop was the Carrieres de Lumieres in Les Baux-de-Provence. It was kind of a cool as they projected art onto all of the walls and the floor of the quarry. It was super windy and also cold there because we were up in the Alpines. The monument was really pretty because they project art onto all of the walls and the floor of the quarry. These quarries were dug to extract the white limestone used to build the castle and the town of Les Baux. In 1935, the economic competition of modern materials led to the closure careers. After that the quarries were abandoned until the 60’s when they were rediscovered by Jean Cocteau. It wasn’t really until the 70’s though that they really started using it as a monument. It was really hard to take pictures of but I did get a few decent ones, taking pictures of art is pretty hard. The theme of the monument changes pretty often but when we were there it was the Artists of the Mediterranean. It was pretty amazing to walk around because they would take the original images and sometimes include animations that enhanced the artwork. They also accompanied it with music which made it a lot more interesting to walk around and see. The show lasted about forty minutes and was on a constant repeat.
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Then we arrived in the city of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue which is a small town in the Vaucluse department of Provence. It is a really cute town that has a lot of canals and foot bridges as well as water wheels. I saw about four water wheels which still work. Though I haven’t been to Italy the town reminded me of it a lot because of all the bridges and canals. The town is also famous for its antique shops and antiques market that happen on most Sundays. It also has a lot of waterside café’s and restaurants though most of them were closed with it being winter. I heard that there are usually more people there during the summer time but with it being winter the tourism season is mostly over. We were there on the market days so I got to walk around and look at all the different shops.
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The next stop was the Fontaine de Vaucluse. This was also a really small town with not very many inhabitants at all. The town is built around a spring in a valley at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains. The spring is the source of the river in the town we had just been in which is the Sorgue River. The spring is the largest in France and is also the fifth largest in the world. I would have liked to get a really good look at it but because we are on the schools insurance policy during these trips they didn’t let us actually see the spring. They only let us get to where the water level would be in the Spring. They told us that the water is so cold and so deep that if you didn’t die from the fall or drowning, you would die from freezing to death as the water is extremely cold. I wasn’t so upset about not seeing it as I am sure being as clumsy as I am, I would have fallen in. It was also very steep.
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Then after that, we walked back into town with the promise of going to a French Resistance museum and if we had time a paper mill. The French resistance museum was kind of interesting because it showed how the French resistance during World War II occupation would make the most out of ever resource that they had. They would make candles out of meat grease and also use water from boiling pasta to make soup. It was an interesting museum but after we were done with it we didn’t have time for the paper mill.
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Finally, it was about time to leave so we headed back to the bus. I bought some postcards and then also we were looking at a chichi stand. Chichi’s are a kind of beignets that I guess are really popular to the region. One of the adults said that they are made from fried garbanzo beans. But I couldn’t find anything out about them. They definitely didn’t taste like beans though. One of the adults let us try one and they were like doughnuts. They also were kind of like elephant ears but more fluffy and covered in sugar. I really liked them! After that our day was over and we were bused back to Aix!
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This weekends trip was through a non-profit organization called Morocco Exchange, and their whole goal is to give you a real non-touristy experience; which I feel like I definitely got. We missed a day of class this week in order to do the program Nov 21-24th. We arrived in Tangier, Morocco about 230 pm that Thursday and thats where we met our program coordinator Kristen, I went with a bunch of people in my program since we were all encouraged to do this particular program ( a group of about 15 people). I went into this very open minded because I honestly I had no idea what to expect, and after weeks of traveling around Europe i’ve learned that nothing is going to be like what I expect!
We started our trip with a drive to the local women’s center in Tangier and got to learn about the program that they have there, which is for women to come in, pay a small fee, and they are taught a skill. The main skill that was taught was two different types of rug making (modern and traditional) so that they can make a living with this learned skill. We also got the opportunity to ask anything we’d like to the women who ran the women’s center while we were eating dinner, it was interesting to learn about what they think about the U.S and current issues around the world. They were all every educated and open to answering all of our questions and I really enjoyed the time I had there.
We left that evening and had about a 3 hour car ride to Rabat, which is the Capitol where we would meet our host families for the next two nights. The drive went by fast and myself and two other friends of mine in the program grouped together for the same host family. One of the girls in our home spoke english very well, but everyone else…not so much. The language barrier was a little strange at first, but after getting to know the family and eating dinner it didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. I don’t know how to explain it, but even without being able to communicate to our “host mom” we still all felt very welcomed. The food we ate was AMAZING, possibly the best meals i’ve eaten since I started school in Barcelona. We all at together out of a communal dish, very different, but I got used to it.
dinner at our home stay
The next day we got the opportunity to hang out with Moroccan college students in the area, and I went in thinking they might be a little more conservative than maybe other students in the U.S but oh was I mistaken. They we’re all so open with everything! We talked about everything from gay rights to our favorite musicians/actors; it was so much fun and an awesome learning experience. We hung out at the beach and conversed over some hot chocolate, it was a good day. This night was our last night with our host families and it was so sad leaving, they all made me feel so welcomed and told us we could come back and stay whenever we liked.
Our last full day was spent in Chefchaouen , which is a much smaller town than Rabat or Tangier, and almost all of the houses there are painted some shade of blue and its absolutely beautiful. We got to meet with a family in a small village for lunch, we had to hike through a bit of mud since it was rainy, but definitely worth it. We all cut up bread, fruits, vegetables, and meat and sat around a table cloth and ate together. We got to ask the family questions about their lives on the farm the dad owned, and basically how life is there for them. The next morning at about 6:45 am we all woke up and went on a small hike to the Rif Mountains to see a view of the whole village from a high point, and oh was it beautiful. The sun was rising over the mountains and you could see for miles and miles. Unfortunately, after this we had to head out to the airport and back to Barcelona for the rest of our Sunday.
This particular trip was very eye opening for me, I didn’t feel like a tourist in this country I got the opportunity to feel like apart of a family and see these cities from a locals point of view. Learning about a Islamic country was so intriguing and eye opening, and it has me more of an educated person and also made me appreciate the luxuries I have in Barcelona and at home. I will definitely go back someday! I loved every minute spent in Morocco.
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This week for Thanksgiving, my group went to watch a horse show on a ranch called Hacienda Mamacona. Peru has a special breed of horses called Caballo Peruano de Paso. This type of horse has a special step, and does dances with dancers. It was a great time! I have never seen any other breeds of horses, just normal breeds that we have in the states so it was very interesting to see the difference. The ranch was also beautiful, during the show they served us fried yuca, which is like a potato, with a sauce called Huancaina sauce, and pisco sours. Then after the show we were served a delicious 3 course meal.
I was glad that we were able to do this on thanksgiving because at home everyone was celebrating, and here Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday. Although we weren’t eating turkey and mashed potatoes, it was still a delicious meal!
And below is a video that you can see how the horse dances with the dancer
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Week 9 was rather quiet, except for the craziness concerning going to the hospital with one of my new British friends. We were playing American football, as part of the new team here at Edge Hill. He is one of the best player in Britain, which would get into many Western level schools, if not higher. So when he had a guy land into his knee and possibly tear his MCL, a lot of us were rather dismayed.
I went with him at 5 am, after waiting for the ambulance for over an hour. Then we went to the hospital, which was not in town and had to wait even more. After getting him an x-ray, they had no more knee braces, so we had to go back to town and get one there, after more waiting. It was a poor affair for him and I. Hopefully, he will have recovered and not have anymore injuries.
The rest of the week, just explored town and finished up a couple of papers. Since my time here is nearing an end, time to get school finished up, then perhaps one last hurrah besides a London weekend getaway. Hopefully finish some Christmas shopping too.
Top one is the town clock as the town center in Ormskirk. It is sort of the rallying point for all the market activities on Thursday and Saturday almost every week.
An old red telephone booth. Classic UK.
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So this week was pretty normal, homework, class, coffee, and caught up on a few of my favorite American shows. In my Urban approach to Spain and Europe class we went on a field visit to the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona. This particular area is focused on art, culture, and music. It’s an up and coming part of the city, it has an urban feel to it with a mixing of low/high income residents and housing. There are a bunch of cute “artsy” shops, vegan/vegetarian restaurants, vintage shops, and graffiti in every corner. It’s probably my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. The city has made it a priority to rebuild and bring people to the neighborhood, and it’s actually the only neighborhood in Barcelona where the foreigners outweigh the born residents with 60% of the residents being immigrants. That was the highlight of my week, and then this weekend I went to Paris! It was a really short trip though, a Friday to Sunday. I saw the Eiffel tower (of course), Norte Dame, the “lock bridge”, Moulin Rouge, walked around downtown Paris, and the Luxembourg Gardens. We didn’t get time to go to The Louve, but definitely doing that next time I go, because there will definitely be a next time!
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This week I made a spontaneous trip to London with one of my friends here! We literally decided to book tickets/hostel just two weeks before. London was probably one of my favorite trips. I got to see and take a ride on the London eye and see a view of all of London, it was incredible. I also took the “Queens walk” where you walk along the river and see all of the bridges, graffiti, and a lot of shops. I also went to Buckingham Palace, which was beautiful but I honestly thought it would be bigger! Its crazy to think that I was right outside the royal palace. It was really nice to be able to communicate easily with everyone because they all speak English! Don’t get me wrong I love Spain, but it was nice meeting locals and being able to keep conversations going. We didn’t get the chance to visit any museums but we did stumble into a modern art gallery along the Queens walk and got to appreciate some of the local artists work. I didn’t do much in Barcelona this week, it was one of the girl’s birthdays so we all went out to dinner, and I didn’t have much homework so you could say it was a good fun filled week.