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I have been back in Oregon for a little over two weeks now. I had intended to write this post after the first week of being back, but I basically slept through that entire week so there wouldn’t have been much to talk about. I did not get sick on the plane this time so that was good. I was awake for about 24 hours straight though by the time I arrived at PDX and really just wanted to go to bed.
Being back with my Oregon friends and family is nice, but being away from my London friends is not. I miss them so much already and it is hard not knowing when I will see them again (if ever). I never imagined I would meet so many amazing people who would make it so hard to say goodbye. Hopefully I will be able to go back someday soon.
There are some things I already miss about London and some things I definitely don’t miss. I miss public transport. Driving again is exhausting and stressful. I got so used to being able to relax on my transport because the only thing I had to pay attention to was the stop I needed. My car sickness is even worse now than it was as I did not ride in a car for more than a few minutes over the last few months. I miss the people and being so close to everything. Just driving the hour and a half from Monmouth to my hometown feels like forever. One thing I don’t miss is the food, or rather my eating habits while away. I have been eating SO much better these last few weeks and it has been really lovely to actually be able to cook again. I do not miss living in a flat, although I do miss having my very own bathroom.
I am sure as more time passes there will be more things I miss and more things I am happy to have back. I am interested to see how things are once school starts. I think it will definitely have both its ups and downs, but WOU is definitely one of the things I have missed the most. I love my school and I am excited to go back.
Returning home was equally as stressful as going to London was in September because I did not know how I was going to feel about it. Being on break has definitely made it easier though because I have only spent time with my closest friends and family. Going back to school will be overwhelming I am sure. Everyone keeps asking “tell me about your trip” and I just look at them because how do you describe three months of your life in just a few sentences. Especially when you have experienced thousands of things worth talking about. I usually just respond with “It was absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t change one thing about it”. I think that sums it up pretty well. It was a once in a lifetime experience and is one I will remember and appreciate for the rest of my life. I cannot express in words how thankful I am. I now have friends all over the world and have a whole new view of the world and the people in it.
Cheers to Europe.
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It is time to say goodbye to the country which I have called home for the past three months and the wonderful people I have met along the way.
Before I get to the emotional stuff though I fill you in a little on how I spent my last weeks. My last two trips of this adventure were Ireland and Spain and I took both countries on in just under a week and a half. In Ireland I stayed with a girl from WOU who I had never met until I was in London and she in Ireland. So crazy how those things happened. We got along very well and I loved exploring the country she has been calling home. It was absolutely beautiful and I could definitely see myself living there someday. Spain was my last trip and once again I was going it alone. It ended up being a wonderful experience, despite not wanting to go due to exhaustion and a small stomach flu. The hostel I stayed at had so many activities to get involved in which allowed me to meet a lot of people. Although I had made this trip “alone” I never felt alone thanks to all the friends I had made in just a few short days. Both of these trips were the perfect end to the adventure of a lifetime.
To say this experience has changed me would be a complete understatement. I have grown in ways I never would have imagined and cannot say how thankful I am to have been able to have this experience. Packing up your things and moving to a new country for a few months is not easy and there were times when I thought I wouldn’t end up getting on my plane. But I did, and I am so incredibly glad I made that leap of faith. I have met so many amazing people from not only London but all of the other places I have been as well. People are much more friendly than we often believe. You just have to work up the courage to say hello. I used to be afraid of being alone, but in these past few months I have explored the world (mostly) on my own and now I feel like I can take on anything. The memories I have made are unforgettable and these people will forever hold a special place in my heart.
When I first arrived I could not wait to go home and now I would give anything to have just a few more days. I wouldn’t change a thing about this trip. There were definitely some not so great moments but the good ones outweigh them tenfold. Thank you for being my temporary home. Goodbye London. Or rather, see you later.
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Blarney Castle, Ring of Kerry and my American friend: It’s been an eventful last two weeks to say the least.
It’s my last week here in Ireland and sad to be leaving such a beautiful place. I feel that my time here has just begun and that I’m leaving far too soon. Luckily though, the last two weeks have been eventful, so much so that I forgot to blog (oopse).
I made a bucket list of everything I wanted to see while I was in Ireland, and it’s safe to say that it’s now complete! I’ve done everything (and more) that I’ve set out to do. A couple weeks ago my roommate’s family came to visit and they’re from the states. I’d been wanting to visit the Ring of Kerry for a while, but didn’t want to spend 40 euro to take a bus. Luckily, my roommate’s family rented a car and invited me to come along. Let me just say though, there are few things scarier than an American driving on the left side of the road for the first time-it was an adventure to say the least. The Ring of Kerry was beautiful though. Rather than it being a destination, it’s instead a road that goes along the coast line with multiple places to stop and look out. There’s waterfalls and scenery along the way, it was beautiful.
The Blarney Castle is very iconic to Ireland and is most well known for the stone that people kiss while upside down. Thanks to the study abroad program that I’m in I was able to see that this past weekend and also the Jamison Factory, another iconic part of Ireland. I’m very thankful that I chose to do a study abroad program v.s direct exchange in that I have the opportunity to see far more of Ireland, which I may not have other wise had, had I done direct exchange.
Lastly, I had an American friend visit me while I was here and I’m SO glad that she did. This last week I had off from school and instead of traveling, I decided to save money and stay in Ireland. After corresponding with a girl from WOU through this blog, she decided to come visit Ireland. As it turns out, we’re both education majors and the same year, yet it took us traveling half way around the world for us to meet. What a small world it is.
It has certainly been a great last two weeks, and while I’m devastated to be leaving, I am excited to get back home to my friends and family… but mostly I’m excited to to have my car back, not have to use public transit, and to eat real food again.
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Today was my last full day in Quito.
Tomorrow at 2 pm I leave for the airport and arrive in Lima, Peru that night. Then I take an early flight to Cusco, where I will meet my Aunt Anna and friend Blake for a train to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu.
It has yet to hit me that I won’t be living here anymore. My bags are packed and my plane tickets are ready, but it still feels like a regular old day. I don’t have the excitement and anticipation in my stomach like I did before I came here. I’m ready to come home, but I know when I do I’ll be leaving a piece of my heart here in Ecuador.
Before I get too sappy let me back up and talk about how the last week and a half has gone.
Last week I was at a public hospital for family medicine. I got to shadow in on specialties like chronic illnesses, the emergency room, and pediatrics. Surprisingly, I liked pediatrics way more than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, I loooove babies and kids, but they’re so difficult when they’re sick! They’re sad, they don’t cooperate, they don’t tell you where it hurts or what kind of pain it is, you have to literally pin them down to take their temperature or give them a vaccine, etc.
That being said, it was fascinating! I learned how to do the 3 month check up: listen to the heart, lungs, and digestive system of the baby. Move their hips and check for dysplasia, measure their growth, then chart it and compare it to the mean statistics of other babies in their age group, and more. I saw babies that were under weight, overly large, had infections, children who couldn’t walk and had underdeveloped lungs from improper care during premature birth, and other interesting impairments I had yet to see for myself in the United States.
I really love that babies and little kids don’t have the social filter to refrain themselves from looking shocked or quizzical when they see something new. Those kids did not know what to think of me. They looked me up and down, from my hair to my eyes to my skin and my shoes (huge difference between shoe choices in the US and Ecuador). Some of them had looks of terror, some of them were just confused, and some of them were intrigued. Either way, I won most of them over by having stickers and lollipops in my pockets. Works like a charm.
On Thursday I spent part of the day skyping some of my family before they ate Thanksgiving dinner — which was so nice. That evening Rebeccah, Lauren, and I all went out to a fancy dinner to celebrate. We couldn’t find anywhere with traditional American Thanksgiving food, so we went downtown and paid way too much for a meal, but had a fantastic Thanksgiving. The best you can hope for when away from your home, family, and close friends. (And mashed potatoes)
That weekend I went to the doctor for my knee due to the persistent reminding that it was necessary to go by Rosita and my medical director. Thankfully, the doctor agreed at this point the damage has already been done and I can wait to get an MRI/XRay in The States. Not thankfully, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was a ruptured ligament that required surgery in the future. For now I am still constantly wearing my brace and have been given some physical therapy exercises to prepare my legs for Machu Picchu. So pumped.
On Sunday we went to my Spanish teacher’s son’s 3rd birthday party and had an amazing time. But first, we had to go toy shopping. Oh my goodness. I’ve talked about how anything imported is crazy expensive here, right? The only toy store we knew of was Toys R Us, and we were in for a huge surprise.
Toys that would cost anywhere from $10-$20 in the states were at least double, sometimes triple or quadruple, here in Ecuador. I took pictures so people could ACTUALLY see what I meant. Look at those price tags (which are not including tax).
Luckily, there were 3 of us, so we split the price of an iron-man action figure and a toy dinosaur 3 ways, and didn’t have to break the bank.
Once we were there we got to play with Dimitri and a street puppy that hangs out near by. SO CUTE.
Then, the party began. Ecuadorians are no amateurs when it comes to throwing a party. There was lunch, snacks, dinner, dessert, drinks, music, dancing, clowns, games, the works. We were there from 2 pm to 9 pm. They even had little Pinatas for each kid who came that were made out of ceramic clay. (I was the only one who broke their’s, those 3 and 4 year olds got to see how it was done) OH, and Marco, our Spanish teacher, was of course one of the clowns.
This week I got to shadow a gynecologist, who also happens to be a surgeon. I saw HPV, cervical polyps, paps, mammograms, was taught how to diagnose osteoporosis, and then scrubbed in on two hysterectomies. One was done robotically and vaginally, while the other was the conventional method. Both were done due to myomas and fibroids. I also really liked this field. So now I have 3 or 4 specialties I could picture myself going into…great. (Also can we just take 2 seconds to recognize how fantastic the female body/reproductive system is? We literally have the ability to create life and undergo unfathomable change and pain to support it. Women are superheroes)
Okay, now for some observations about Ecuador I think I have yet to share (everything is kind of blending together):
- The strawberries are the size of orange cuties here. At least. Literally like the size of a fist.
- Even the best, wealthiest, hospitals violate health codes like not changing gloves or hygienic furniture coverings between patients.
- Ecuadorians love their crocks. Yes, the plastic shoes. Love them. If you have a profession where it is socially acceptable to wear crocks here, huge added bonus.
- There are way more female med students than female doctors. I have no explanation as to why this is but I have two guesses: Either after years of needing to prove themselves more than their male counterparts, they got fed up and dropped out. OR as this country makes strives to end the machisimo culture here, women are feeling more able to assert themselves in male dominated roles and professions. I’m hoping for the second guess.
- People here have four names and you write them down in this order: Father’s last name + Mother’s last name + first name + “middle name”
- There are security guards and parking assistants for every business and building ever in Quito. I think I pass more guards on my way to work than actual pedestrians.
- Troles are really really awful. They’re crammed full, they’re stuffy, they smell bad, they jolt around and make you carsick, and people literally ride the trole all day every day trying to rob you. Like, that is their profession.
- People with disabilities here are treated better than I expected (from what I have witnessed). If someone who is blind or has a different physical ailment gets on a bus alone, people take it upon themselves to make sure they get a seat or are guided out the doors when necessary. Kids with downs syndrome happily hold their parents hands and play with them in the park without protest. City jobs are given to people who otherwise wouldn’t normally be employed. That being said: I have yet to see a child with disabilities put into a school with children without disabilities. Quito is also not a physically safe or accessible atmosphere for people with disabilities: hand rails and wheel chair ramps are not a thing, there are very few troles with places to put a wheal chair, and basic needs like walking on a smooth sidewalk are not obtainable.
- Women curl their eyelashes with the back of spoons
- Toilet paper pretty much doesn’t exist here
- You have to pay to use a public restroom
- Fiestas de Quito is coming up: Quito’s largest holiday and celebration that stretches to be a week long. Shops and stores shut down so people can have plenty of time to drink all day, then ride in a bus called the “Chiva” that looks like a cart made for livestock, but has flashing lights and music blaring.
- Everyone who asks me what my name is, hears it then replies with “no, I mean what is your first name?”
- People love public displays of affection. Especially 13-year-olds on the trole. Another reason to not like them (troles that is).
- Breast feeding here is totally acceptable. Whenever, however, in front of whomever. People recognize that breasts were first made to give nutrients to babies, so I have yet to see a mom be given a dirty look for showing an exposed breast in public when her baby is in need of food.
Alright, now for the sappy stuff.
This country, the people in it, and their culture have taught me so much. Who knew a person could grow this much in just a few short weeks? I’ve laughed a lot, cried, seen things I wasn’t prepared for, was shocked in both happy and sad ways, and so much more. On top of that, I can now carry out full (yet still limited) conversations with strangers in Spanish. I feel like that alone is a fantastic accomplishment.
Through this experience I have proven to myself that I have the capability of true independence. Yes, I received so much love, support, and help along this journey. Which I’m beyond thankful for. But I also made the decision at 20 years old to pretty much spend everything I had ever saved, move to a country where I didn’t know a single person, where I could barely speak the language, and work in a whole new healthcare system I had never witnessed before. AND I totally made it out alive. Not just alive, but in my opinion, a better human being.
My experiences here were like non other. Experiences I will undoubtedly never have again. They made me excited, mad, emotional, overjoyed, devastated, and so much more. My experiences pushed me to be introspective and re-evaluate a lot of my own opinions, feelings, and beliefs. They pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even remember where that line is anymore.
Although not what I expected, at all (and let’s get real, when is anything new what we expected?), I wouldn’t change this journey for the world. It did exactly what I had hoped it would do: change my life. It changed my perspective, my knowledge, my goals. It gave me a new sense of who I believe I am, and who I want to continue to strive to be.
I am forever indebted to this country and the people in it. Ecuador, my first taste of a completely new world. The first country I fell in love with and fought with at the same time. A place that made me appreciate my home, yet want to strive for more positive changes as well. A country filled with amazing people who had no reason to want to help me, yet I know they would do anything to make sure I am okay. A country full of unexpected friends, mentors, family, and loved ones.
Now that the time has come to say goodbye to this beautiful, at times heart breaking, eye opening, fantastic country, it’s a lot harder than I expected it would be. However, one thing I do know is that this isn’t goodbye forever, just “hasta luego.”
Thank you for the love and kindness you have showed me, the education you have given me, and the experiences that will stay in my heart forever.
Until next time, Ecuador. You will forever be my first international love.
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I do believe I may have missed a week…or two. So, that being said, its time to catch up! As my time left here in Florence gets shorter and shorter the weeks begin to fly by faster and faster! During the past three weeks I have been to Sicily, Rome, Copenhagen, and after this coming weekend I will have visited Venice as well. After that I have one more week of classes, three days of finals, and then it is time to board the plane back to Portland! Its hard to believe that I will have been here for almost three months, it has gone by much, much quicker than I expected. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and I know I will soon be missing this city terribly, but at the same time I can’t wait to see my family again and be home for Christmas (it was hard enough missing Thanksgiving!). Anyways, enjoy some photos from my adventures these past three weeks! Again, I’m afraid I must apologize for being such a terrible blogger!
Sicily- Catania, Taormina, and Mt. Etna
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I know it’s only the second week of classes, and I haven’t had the good fortune to befriend any Irish students yet -so as to debunk the following judgements and generalizations- but I honestly haven’t been getting very positive vibes from my Irish classmates. By and large (and again, I acknowledge what a grievous generalization this is), they are the most apathetic, listless bunch of twenty-somethings I’ve ever encountered, and I go to college in AMERICA. I cannot understate, however, how self-absorbed many of the students around me seem. In the lecture halls, for example, the vast majority make love to their illicit cellphones, hiding them in their laps, their thumbs working furiously and their eyes resurfacing every few seconds as though for air. This goes on for hours, during entire class sessions; behavior so evidently commonplace and unavoidable that even the most lucid of professors -Martin Malony for example- seem to roll over and surrender to the mass sea of vapid and bored lap-obsessed students. Why does the cellphone hysteria feel so much worse here than in the states? Admittedly, my only experience is Western Oregon University, a school whose humble size may help explain its supposed relative respectfulness, but what could be so different between Irish and American students? Surely American students aren’t more invested in their education than their Irish counterparts? But seeing so many of my fellow classmates openly ignoring their educators in favor of snapchat and instagram is very disheartening.
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Well I’m officially a member of Dublin City University Drama Society. I’ve paid my two euro, “liked” the facebook page, and gotten a sticker. No going back now.
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Remember when I mentioned how much of a fan of playwright Conor McPherson I am? Well on Saturday I got to meet the man. Shannen and I attended a live interview hosted by RTE for the Dublin Theatre Festival in which McPherson discussed his newest play “The Night Alive,” a production of which (directed by the playwright) will be showing here in Dublin at the Gaiety Theatre as part of the aforementioned festival. At the end of the talk, which was both informative and entertaining (McPherson spoke very candidly about his writing and his process, and seems like a genial, “down-to-earth” sort of guy), the floor was opened to questions from the audience. While my hand had been raised since the beginning, I was never chosen, that is until a second call for “just one more question,” at which point McPherson pointed to me, having apparently taken notice of my patience. I asked my question, and he answered it. How surreal. And if all of that wasn’t cool enough, afterwards I waited in line to shake the man’s hand and get his autograph. HIS AUTOGRAPH. Most of my friends don’t even know who this guy is, and I’m over the moon about his autograph. Talk about celebrity worship. Yeesh. Anyway, it was a good day. Here’s a link to the audio of the interview.
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I am a bit behind so I will put two weeks into one. Week nine was not very eventful. Mostly I just did stuff for school and hung out with my London friends. I feel like I haven’t seen them much with all the traveling I have been doing. I did go and see Wicked with a friend I have made here and it was so good. I want to go again before I leave,
Week ten was AWESOME, because my boyfriend was here!! He left today though, which was hard. While he was here we went to Paris and explored a lot of London. It was so wonderful to see him again. I loved showing him around this city which has become my temporary home. It made me really excited to go home to Oregon though and get back to my life. Being here has felt like a huge vacation, as I have not had many responsibilities while here. This whole trip has had a feeling of being unlike my real life, which I miss. I am ready to be back in a routine again and to actually have some lazy days.
I am taking 19 credits in the Winter which will be crazy as I have had almost no work to do for school while here. School in the UK is pretty different from in the states and going to classes is really not necessary, especially since I am not taking the final at the end of the year. School here is honestly really easy in terms of the time commitment it takes to do well. It is going to be hard going back to school everyday and having work every night. I am ready though. I love school and I am excited to get back to it even though I know it will be difficult.
Tomorrow I am going to Ireland to spend a few days with another girl from WOU. I am very excited to spend time with someone from home and talk about WOU. Many of my trips have been solo and I have stayed in hostels for all of them. It will be nice to have company and to stay in an actual home. Then on Saturday I head to Spain for a few days. These are my last two trips on this adventure and I think they are going to be some of the best. I head back to Oregon a week after I return from Spain. It is so bittersweet and I think it is going to be much harder than I was expecting. Many of these people I will never see again and that is hard as I have become quite close with many of them. I am ready to go home and see my friends and family in Oregon, but it will be hard leaving my London friends. They all say they will see me again, but in all honestly that is not going to be true for many, if not all.
Goodbyes are hard, but I would not change one second of this trip. I have grown so much and have seen more in the past ten weeks than I ever imagined I would see in a lifetime. Studying abroad is seriously a once in a lifetime experience that I wish everyone could do. I am thankful I was able to. Two more weeks and then Oregon here I come.
At an ice bar in London
We went and saw Lion King too!
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Just finished week 10 and am on the mend but I was ill for the third time this week. Another virus that was pretty bad and when I wasn’t in class, I was in bed. My immune system has been very sensitive since being here at Roehampton I have to say. I wasn’t ill at all last year, let alone three times in the space of 10 weeks! I love going out and being around people but my body must not be too used to it. The medical centre is starting to get me really well, I’m sure
Only two weeks left of this semester which is crazy!! Time has gone by so quickly and I am so unbelievably happy I am here for another term. My parents and sister are coming here for Christmas and I cannot wait. This will be my first Christmas in England and words cannot describe how happy I am that it is finally happening.
Just got back from meeting a family that I will start babysitting for which is great. London is obviously way more expensive than Monmouth and there is way to more to tempt one to spend money than in Monmouth so making some money will be good. Their house is in Fulham, which is a nice neighbourhood in London and it is a pretty straightforward commute from here.
This week is the week to really get cracking on studying for exams and writing for papers due in the next two weeks. This part of Uni isn’t too different from in the states!