Lost in London

It’s been quite a few days as I began to embark on my study abroad experience. Again, my name is Kendra Jozwiak. I’m fortunate enough to be able to study in Paris this summer, and right now I’m spending a few days in London with my program before we head over to Paris.

Today we had a tour of London, and got to see all the typical tourist-y stuff. Our tour guide was fabulous, always cracking jokes, and it was a fantastic tour. However, at the end of the tour, they dropped us off in London, pretty far away from our hotel, and gave us the day to explore. I thought this was fantastic at first! A group of us walked around some adorable little shops, and even went through a museum. That’s when things started to go… we’ll say “unlucky” for us. There were six of us in the original group, but another girl and I lost the rest of the group among the wonderful paintings. Realizing we were lost, we pulled out our trusty, tourist map of London and took off walking down what we thought was the right street in the right direction.

It took us about 2 miles to realize we had no idea what was going on.

We stopped, pulled out our map again, and were hopelessly confused. We had walked in at least three circles, and were headed the completely wrong way. How did we end up across the river and a mile south in the wrong direction? Luckily, the people of London must recognize when they see two helpless, unlucky girls, because a helpful older man directed us to a tube station. After that (and with an incredible amount of help from the people who work the tube), we decided to be those super nerdy tourists. We visited platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, and even popped by the TARDIS from Doctor Who outside of another tube stop. We got excited when we heard the announcements in the tube say “mind the gap” and even tried (and failed) to speak with English accents.

We finally made it back to the area where our hotel is, ate some fish and chips (we felt so British!) and are just about ready to crash for the night. I can now say that I got lost in London. I’m actually sort of glad it happened, because we were forced to figure it out, and we also got to see more (and different parts) of London than we would have.

Tomorrow I head over to Paris on the Eurostar train. I’m excited for what awaits me over there (hopefully I won’t get lost in Paris, even though it will probably happen). I’m hoping that I can conquer the placement test, and then just relax and enjoy France. Until next time, “cheers!”

Kendra

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Initial Observations

So much has happened in the past few days! After I arrived in Quito on Monday night, a chofer (driver) from the CIMAS program picked me up from the old airport, and I stayed at a hotel called Savoy Inn. Tuesday morning, my host mom, Catalina Asanza, or Caty, came with her older son, Jorge, to bring me to the house briefly before taking me to CIMAS. The house is beautiful, but I was a bit surprised to find out that they had two cars. Also, I was a little confused at first because Caty showed me into her room, because there is another exchange student staying in the room that will be “mine” after she moves out on Friday.
After dropping off the luggage, they drove me to CIMAS. The location feels like a castle, with a view of Quito that defines awesome. Like all the buildings, CIMAS has very tight security, including ~20-foot walls with spikes on top and even a doorman. Everything is very spacious inside the walls, including a field for fútbol (soccer), especially compared to the tiendas (shops) and casas (houses). There is even a computer lab and kitchen that we can use.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about the first day of class. I was pretty preoccupied with all the new sights and experiences. Also, I was surprised to discover that this specific program for Literature, Culture, and Language is entirely students from SU: seven of us. But I do remember that our maestra (teacher) Emilia was very nice. At one point she started talking about the woes of Wal-Mart, and she started talking so quickly and passionately that none of us could understand her!
Throughout the day, we have a half hour break, and a 1.5 hour lunch. I am a huge fan of this schedule. I think that it reflects the cultural de-emphasis of punctuality and timing. So far, we have spent our breaks lounging on the grass and walking down the block to buy bread from the panadería and fruit from the fruitería.
After my first day of classes, I rode the bus home with Caty. That is an experience in and of itself! At home, Caty made dinner while I chatted with her sons, Jorge and Galo, as well as her husband’s brother, whose name I can’t remember. I found out that her husband had died just five months ago! I don’t know what to think, because the family has only spoke of him that one time when I found out that he passed away. I will have to keep my ears open for more on that. At dinner I also met Alejandra, who is the other study abroad student. We had a fish soup that was super-delicious and I even ate two bowls!
After dinner, I went with Caty and Jorge to deliver perfumes that she sells. It was interesting to see new places in Quito, but I was so tired that I fell right asleep when we got home at 9pm. Even after the first night, I was dreaming in Spanish!
On Wednesday, we had a safety presentation by the U.S. Embassy. The presenter was a bit insensitive and too full of himself for my taste, but I suppose it is good to understand the risks. The U.S. state determined risk level here in Ecuador is critical, which is the same as countries such as Iraq and Haiti. He emphasized how important it is for us to stick together, take the certified taxis (orange license plates and a registration number), and if we get robbed, the most important thing is to comply. After that presentation, the director of CIMAS talked to us about the realistic risks. His main point was to not drink in excess, because that is the primary reason that foreigners get into compromised and dangerous situations. All of the information was a bit sobering, but it was pretty much common sense.
After school, the whole group went with my host mom so that we could get phones at the regional center for the provider we chose, which is a block from my house. We decided to all get the same provider, Claró because apparently they have the best coverage throughout the country, whereas the competitor is not so great outside Quito. That entailed A LOT of walking to everyone’s houses to get money, and A LOT of waiting at the center in order to get all the phones. We all decided to forgo the dancing and get some rest after that ordeal.
One experience with my host family that was interesting and a bit uncomfortable was when Caty asked me if I had a mamá. I told her that I had three; my dad’s wife, my mom, and her partner/wife. After a moment of pause, she told me that she understood what I was saying and then changed the subject. The next day, she told Jorge that I had three moms when we were talking about their nanny. Both of them told me that they respected my family and me very whole-heartedly. The thing that stood out most for me in this experience was how atypical it is to discuss sexuality, even in the home. Perhaps I am generalizing when I say that this is a taboo topic throughout Ecuador, but it was definitely uncomfortable to bring up anything related to the LGBTQ community.
Thursday was a very interesting day! Also, it was probably the first day that I started to feel normal again, emotionally and physically. We learned about the provinces of Ecuador in our grammar class (?) and then we went to a local mercado (market) that sells fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and other things. We went in pairs to learn about and buy one new fruit that we had never seen before. It was very similar to the markets I have been to in Mexico, but much smaller. When we got back to CIMAS, we all shared what we had learned about the fruit and then discussed observations we had. It was a very informative discussion about Ecuadorian culture and inequality. I was very surprised to hear that people from the middle and upper classes don’t shop in these awesome mercados because they don’t want to be perceived as poor.
I took the bus home by myself for the first time, and everything was great! Then Caty showed me how to make a typical chicken dish for dinner. After eating, Alejandra got home from her last day at CIMAS, and then we left to go to a local volcán (volcano) called Pulalahua. Although we didn’t stop at the monument at Mitad, this was my first time going south of the linea occidental (equator)! It gets dark very quickly here, so by the time we arrived at the volcán at 6:30pm, it was very foggy and mostly dark.
We came back home pretty quickly since we couldn’t see anything. Upon arriving home, I finally got keys to the house! Then I had to pack up my stuff to move into the new room and small bag for my weekend trip to Mindo. I’m excited to go on my first excursion, and this place looks superb. We are going as a group in a van that CIMAS organized for us that leaves at 8am. I will tell you all about Mindo next post, and hopefully will have lots of pictures!

Alora

On angels’ Wings

Finally, I’ve made it safely to Quito, if not a bit late, and I’m on my way to the Savoy Inn Hostel. This story starts a little less than a week ago.
It’s Tuesday before I leave to Ecuador. Only five days until I’m on my way. Just for good measure, I decide to call up the Ecuadorian Consulate to make sure that they have sent my passport with the student visa that I applied for two Fridays ago. That was a bit of a serendipitous common sense because the lady at the consulate tells me that my passport not only hasn’t been returned, but also, low-and-behold, I’m missing two documents and I sent them the wrong application! Did I mention that they also needed to send me some documents that I needed to sign and return before they could finish processing the visa and return my passport? Plus, I hadn’t sent a large enough return envelope, so that lost me even more brownie points with el consulado.
Thus began a frantic week of calling the consulate, my program advisors and practically anyone I could think of who could help get my passport on time. After about three days of repeated calling, I was pretty close with Beatriz over in the Ecuadorian consulate. By some miracle, she decided to let me fax in the paperwork so that she could start processing the visa before I returned all those signed documents. Somehow, the consulate, postal service, Fed-Ex, my parents, and my passport all synchronized for a few harmonious moments, and my visafied passport arrived in the mail on Saturday, less than 24 hours before departure.
This was not the part of the story that caused my delay, but it definitely marked the first lesson that I learned from Ecuador (via the Consulate). I’m not sure how to put it into words, but I would be something like trust in others. My aunt told me last week that I have a huge guardian angel energy. If so, I’m fairly certain that Beatriz at the consulate was working in cahoots with my angel through the whole visa situation. Maybe this trip will be more “spiritual” or whatever you can to call it, than I thought.
Once I got my passport, I everything went smoothly, including the wedding of my good friend, until I got to the Boise airport. Well, I guess you could say it was when I got to the gate, where we were delayed 20 minutes for the flight to San Francisco. Then we got delayed 20 minutes again as we hovered over SF. Our final arrival time was one hour later than scheduled, which was the exact time of my layover before my flight to Houston. So I missed the flight to Houston along with about 10 other people on my flight and 10 other flights in the SF airport. And we all stood in the customer service line for a good 2 hours, meaning that I missed the second flight to Houston. Finally I got to Houston a few hours later, but that meant that I missed my 5pm flight to Quito. My airline did not send me on another airline or even find accommodations for me in Houston, because the delay was caused by weather… which they can’t control. : [
That delay was definitely a bummer, but there was a bright side. I met a lovely lady at the customer service desk in Houston named Betty who made sure my luggage was still going to Quito and gave me a United Airlines overnight packet. I ended up staying the night in the Houston International Hostel and meeting a lot of pretty cool people, and one rather egocentric rapper. Also, I got to visit the Houston Holocaust Museum and Fine Arts Museum.
It took me all week to get around to writing the blog post and now I’m on the plane to Quito. For some reason, it still hasn’t hit me that I’m going to be in Ecuador and I’m not coming back. I’m excited and a little bit nervous to meet my first host family, which consists of three young men (ages 19, 19, and 23) and a single mother. They are picking me up from the hostel tomorrow at 8 am. I’m done for now, but stay tuned for more later!

Alora

ecuador photo

This is where the story begins…

For those of you that don’t know, I am going to be sharing my blog on the SU Education Abroad Blog. So, hello, my name is Alora McGavin and I’m spending my summer (and fall) in Quito, Ecuador. I’m doing two consecutive study abroad programs: the SU-Sponsored CIMAS Spanish Intensive program for the summer and a non-SU direct enrollment program at Universidad de San Francisco de Quito through CIS in the fall. I will be focusing my studies on Spanish (for my Spanish major), with a touch of environmental science in the fall (for my environmental science major).
This trip has been in the making since before I came to college. My mom has always told me how much she loved her study abroad experience and I grew up traveling, so study abroad was something I knew I wanted to do too. I choose Ecuador because it is a Spanish-speaking Latin American country rich ecological diversity and environmental issues. And I’m super excited to see the Galapagos Islands!
Besides the obvious credit requirements that I am fulfilling with these programs, Spanish language proficiency, environmental edification, and improved cultural awareness are my main goals for this trip. From an early age, my dad emphasized the importance of learning a second language. I took lots of Spanish classes and even visited Mexico and Costa Rica a few times, however, my comprehension and fluency have yet to reach the level for which I strive. I’m pretty sure that six months of language immersion will push me to the level that I’m hoping to reach, especially since I am planning to take upper-level ecology/environmental science classes in Spanish! Speaking of which, I can’t wait to see the unparalleled biodiversity that Ecuador holds. For a country smaller than the state of Colorado, the geographic as well as biological variety is astounding! As such a valuable ecological hub, the country has its share of sensitive environmental problems. Hopefully, I will be able to gain insight that might impact my future in environmental science. Additionally, I would like to experience every possible culture, and Ecuador is full of culture! Due to the geography, colonization, politics and probably some other stuff, there are a number of distinctive subcultures within Ecuador. Although I have a few preconceived ideas that I want to explore on my journey, I have a feeling that what I will actually gain will be pretty different.
I’m pretty sure that everyone, including me, is pumped about my trip to Ecuador. You wouldn’t be friends and family if there weren’t some missing going on, though. Oddly enough, I have felt a lot more reluctant to leave my wonderful community in Seattle (and Boise) in the past few weeks. There are so many people and events that I will have to do without for the next six months. Fortunately, the time is relatively brief and I’m definitely heading towards a lot of fun for now!
Here is a site with a lot of cultural info about Ecuador if you are interested:
http://www.everyculture.com/Cr-Ga/Ecuador.html

Alora

Half Way Done Already?!

I can’t believe that by the end of this week, my program will already be half of the way done! I have a group project, a paper, and a test next week. The time is flying by faster than I ever thought it could. Staying focused on schoolwork is proving to be a very difficult task since I am surrounded by so many different things to do in and around London.

For instance, last weekend, I went to Paris with two of my friends from the program. Since Paris is only two and half hours away using the Chunnel, I knew that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go! We had a great time walking around the city, eating crepes, and becoming masters of a transportation system in a new city.

This weekend, almost everybody on my program will be leaving London at 4:30 am Friday morning to stand in the line (or queue) to get tickets to Wimbledon! Even though I am not the biggest tennis fan, I am excited to get to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. For the remainder of the weekend, our program is going to Stonehenge and Bath. I have always wanted to go to both of these places, and am looking forward to spending more time with everybody else in my program.

Until the weekend comes, I will be trying to finish up all of my reading and midterm assignments so that I can fully enjoy my weekend trips.

Colleen

Free shoulder massage?! YES.

Yep. You read that right. Free shoulder massage. What does that have to with anything, you may wonder?  Well, two days ago, I was sitting in a pub in Dublin eating a traditional Irish lunch (meat and potatoes!) with a few of the jet lagged people from my program. The waiter (maybe the bartender… they seem to be the same person in pubs) came up to us, cracked a joke in his beautiful accent about shoulder massages, and then (out of nowhere, it seemed), he totally started giving me a shoulder massage. I was startled, so I got really tense, but after a second I relaxed and it felt great! I still can’t decide if it was a little creepy or just a great example of how nice Irish people are… so I’m going to go with the latter.

I apologize for my peculiar story- honestly that’s probably not the most exciting thing that’s happened so far. A LOT has been going on! Traveling to Ireland wasn’t too stressful, although I came a day earlier than most of the other people in my program, so I sort of had to wing it for a while. 2 other girls came early too, so thankfully the 3 of us managed to meet up even though we were staying in 3 separate hostels. Unfortunately, we were all really jet lagged during dinner that night, so I don’t think we were actually speaking coherent sentences (I had been awake for 28 hours at that point). However, it was awesome to start to get to know the other people in the program and to gain new perspectives on what to expect for the next 4 weeks. Everyone else came the next morning in a double decker bus (25 total students in the ISA program), and since then I’ve been having a blast! Although it’s hard to move past the whole “I’m from Maryland but I go to school in Seattle” thing when I introduce myself to people, I have had some really interesting conversations with the other students. They’re from all over the US, so I’ve really enjoyed hearing about where they’re from, where they go to school, and why they chose the program. I’ve noticed I’m definitely one of, if not the youngest student, so I’m hoping I’m acting just as mature as everyone else. Yesterday we took a walking tour of Dublin led by our 2 Residential Directors (both originally from Ireland), and then we stayed the night at a hostel in the heart of the city. This morning we went to the Guinness Storehouse and then we drove to Galway and (finally!) got settled in the apartments that we’ll be living in for the next 4 weeks. Everything has been absolutely wonderful so far- I love it here! I especially love Galway, and I’ve only been here for 6 hours!

Just a few quick comments before I wrap it up for now- Irish people are really really REALLY nice to Americans, the hostel we stayed in reminded me of the Leaky Caldron from Harry Potter, I recognize some brands/ads/restaurants/stores from America, like Starbucks (yay Seattle!) and McDonalds, but there are plenty I have never seen before, the roads are extremely complicated and confusing, oncoming buses and cars do NOT stop for you like they do in America, “chips” are french fries, the country is very small (we drove from Dublin (East Coast) to Galway (West Coast) in 2 hours- a plane ride from Maryland to Seattle is 5 to 6 hours! WHOA.), the Guinness mascot is a Toucan (I tried to find out why but I’m still clueless), Irish accents are just simply heavenly to listen to, Dublin had zero skyscrapers (at least what I would define as a skyscraper), Ireland is very environmentally friendly (I found that out the hard way- the shower at the hostel only ran water every 5 seconds with a button you had to push every time you wanted more water), hardly anyone speaks Gaelic but a lot of the signs have English as well as Gaelic, I like Galway way more than Dublin (more on that later), and last but certainly not least, I’m having so much craic and I can’t wait to have more craic!

Alex

P.S. “Craic” in Gaelic means “fun”. Pronounced “crack”. So I’ve been told…

My Mind is in Paris…

Five days until I arrive in London on my way to study abroad at L’Université Paris-Sorbonne. My name is Kendra Jozwiak, and I have a wonderful mix of excitement and anxiety for the experience I’m about to have in France.

As I start preparing to leave, many worries flood my mind. Am I packing enough? Too little? Do I have everything? Do I know enough French to do well on my language placement test? But even as these worries roll over in my mind, the things I am excited for start to take over. An entirely new place awaits me with completely different experiences. I’m going to learn so much, and be able to do things that I couldn’t have without this opportunity. A little over a week from now I could be sitting in a French café enjoying a cup of coffee and a croissant while looking out at Paris.

I’m lucky enough to be staying with a host family for the six weeks while I’m in France. I received information about them just today, and I think I actually squealed with excitement. Another American student and I will be sharing a room in this family’s house (at least we can fumble through the transition together).

As each day passes, it seems less and less real to me. But at the same time, my excitement continues to grow and it’s all I can talk about (I think my family might be getting annoyed). I can’t believe that I’m lucky enough to have this experience.

Kendra