The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2011

Nicaraguan Treehouse Adventures

Nicaraguan Treehouse Adventures

After only receiving a 15 day visa from the immigration official in Costa Rica after my trip to Colombia I have to admit I was a little irritated with the stress of having to leave the country again in 2 weeks.  However, now I have realized that what I thought would be an inconvenient border run turned out to be a blessing in disguise and created a very memorable 3 days.

I arrived in Granada, Nicaragua after a 7 hour bus ride from Puntarenas, including 2 hours at the hot and quite unorganized border.  When I arrived in Granada I had no plans, no reservations and no expectations.  I did however have a pamphlet a friend had given me of a tree house hostel 10 km outside the city, so I jumped on a bus leaving the city, got off at the landmark and hiked up through the jungle to Poste Rojo Treehouse.  After arriving and picking out the hammock with the best view (which cost roughly $3/night to sleep in) I went to the yoga class they held during sunset.  That night I ate a communal dinner with the other backpackers and met some amazing people who were so much fun to get to know over the course of the next 3 days.  We made our own pizzas and then cooked them in an outdoor oven before feasting.

The next day I hiked up Volcan Mombacho with 2 boys and 1 girl I met at the hostel the night before.  They were part of a group who had been traveling in a communal bus around Central America for a few months now.  Basically, they had each met this bus and the driver at some point during their travels and he invited them to ride with him South letting them sleep and eat on the bus along the way.  I thought this was such a cool concept and really admire the compassion and love of travel the driver Tim had, as well as the amount of time and energy he invested to make this dream a reality for him and fellow backpackers.

The trek up the volcano was no easy task for me but after reaching the top and seeing the view of Lake Nicaragua, Isla Ometepe, and the forests that lived within the craters it was worth the pain.  Later that day we hitch hiked into Granada and went for a swim in giant Lake Nicaragua, another great reward to an exhausting day.

The next day I went to the Masaya Market located in the small town of Masaya.  This market had everything I could ask for, from fresh pineapple to handmade dresses to wooden carved table ware.  I bought a beautiful handmade floral purse, a hammock, some earrings made of turtle shells, and some head scarves.  The market was so vibrant and bargaining with the different vendors in Spanish made the experience memorable.

My last day in Nicaragua was spent exploring Granada with a Dutch boy who had worked as a film maker there for 2 months before.  It was such a relaxing day just walking around the city, sitting in the Central Park, seeing the market, eating local food from street vendors, exploring the Cathedrals, and walking along the lake.  That night after a meal of spaghetti and garlic bread at the hostel, a lot of the musically talented travelers played on the deck over looking the jungle.  It was so nice to hang out with my new friends for one last night in such a chill environment and realize that maybe fate was working in my favor.

Italian March, the rain kind of puts a damper on things.

Italian March, the rain kind of puts a damper on things.

Ciao regazzi!

I’ve been granted my freedom, finally. But more importantly, I’ve got a clean bill of health (well for the most part.) No infection, I’m not going to be starting a pandemic anytime soon which is great. It has been a real though past two weeks. But I made it, it was quite a test but I think I did alright. I want to thank everyone who had me in their thoughts, couldn’t have done it without all of you. My family was a great help too. I know you may all be asking what exactly happened; well it was all such a blur and took a lot out of me so I would rather not get into it now. I think it is best for me to used this experience to become an even more patient person and move on.

Alora, on to bigger and better things.

Intramural calcio was cancelled once again, just like it was before spring break. I wasn’t planning on playing, need to get my strength back. But I was looking forward to cheering my team on. Oh well, next week I’ll be back out there. It’s a lot of fun and its a good way to build bonds with the people here, and everyone likes to be competitive.

Well my dad is still here, and he decided it would not be worth it to fly back just to turn around and fly back on saturday with my mother, grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncle. This brings me to my next point. My family is coming to visit! They get here sunday AM and I’m going to head to the airport and meet them before they fly off to Bari to visit where my grandpa was born. They’ll be back in Rome on thursday and I will be able to see them more extensively and show them around, and of course get a few free meals out of it. I am so so excited to see them, for one I don’t get to see my mom’s side very often and it will be a nice break, not that I don’t love my friends here, I do, but I’ve always held my family dear to me.

Well luckily I didn’t miss too much school wise, and I plan to use this weekend to catch up. I am planning on showing Dad around the Vatican on Friday and then on Saturday he is going to be tagging along on a day trip to see some WWII sites near Rome. It will be great, some father son bonding…so really what they say is true, every cloud has a silver lining. Out of pain, can come happiness.

I will do my best to make up for the blogging I missed, well, I have to do some more interesting stuff first. Which I will. I’ve still got plenty of time left here in Rome, and I plan to make the best of it. Though my money is running low, there are still low cost ways to have fun.

Well thanks again for reading, I heart all my fans! haha. As always stay classy and ci vediamo dopo!

Irish Spring Break

Irish Spring Break

An Irish Spring Break Getaway.                        March 4th-13th, 2011

After a week of midterms I was more than ready for spring break. Me and my friend Melody backed our bags for an adventure to Ireland. We woke up at 6:30 to get to the airport to catch our flight. We were so excited to experience new adventures and just get to Ireland and do the things we had planned… that didn’t last long. Our plane was late taking off which made us have a really tight connection in London. After taking off 45 minutes late and having to spend 35 minutes in a line for immigration we missed our connection.

After spending 100 pounds which is equal to 160 American dollars and redoing our whole schedule we got a new flight and  we were back on our way to Ireland… after a 10 our layover in the London Gatwick airport. After finally getting on the plane we arrived very late in Dublin and just went straight to sleep.

The next morning we woke up and decided to do a little bit of window shopping and explore Ireland. I loved Ireland the second we stepped off the plane. I am 100% Irish so I loved being there. We window shopped for a little bit because we were ending our trip in Dublin and didn’t want to explore everything just yet. We ended up finding a pub called O’Neill’s which I absolutely love because its my last name… so of course… I took a picture in front of it.

We wandered around Dublin and eventually met up with some other girls and took a 6:00 night bus to Galway. All of us ending up wandering around Galway and going to bed early because we were getting up early on Sunday to bike the Aran Islands.

While we were in Galway we stayed at a really cute bed and breakfast located in the center of Galway. We got up early to have breakfast before catching the ferry to the Aran Islands. We decided to be adventurous and try a traditional Irish Breakfast. IT WAS SO GOOD. After our breakfast we quickly headed to the bus, which took us to our ferry. It was very chilly that day so we were kind of skeptical of renting bikes but decided to do it anyways.

We quickly jumped on the bikes and began our tour of the main island Inis Mohr. It was absolutely beautiful. Although most of the route was up hill it was so pretty and the weather actually improved to where it was warm and the sun was out. We biked for a couple hours and covered the whole island. Although some of the sites where closed because it was their off season we were able to see most of the sites along this island. My favorite site was the Dun Aonghasa. It was a celtic stone fort, which gave you an entire view of the Island. They were absolutely beautiful and it was so cool to see because you could walk right up to the edge and hang your feet over the side. We stayed there for a good half an hour and hopped right back on our bikes and headed back to the main port.

Cliffs

We arrived at the port and grabbed a quick bite for lunch and grabbed the ferry back to Galway. Once we got back we quickly showered and met up with some of our friends who were also staying in Galway. We intended to go out but being a Sunday most people were not out. We ended up going to bed early because we were getting up to do the Cliffs of Mohr the next day.

Monday morning we woke up and again had our traditional Irish breakfast and headed on our way to the bus station to catch our tour to the Cliffs of Mohr.  We had a long bus ride to the cliffs but it was absolutely beautiful. The scenery we got to see along the way was so nice. It was completely different from anything I have ever seen. If you don’t believe me…. Look for yourself!

After spending the day at the cliffs we came back and caught a bus to Cork, Ireland. We ended up getting in fairly later so we ended up just getting something to eat and going to bed.

The next morning we woke up and headed out to the Blarney Castle where the Blarney stone is located. To get there we took the local bus, which dropped you off only a block away from the Blarney stone. The Blarney stone was a very pretty castle. Of course we went to the top of the castle and kissed the Blarney stone and continued on to walk the gardens which were beautiful.

Kissing the Blarney Stone!

(one of the things on my bucket list!)

One interesting thing about the gardens is that they have a set of stairs called “The Wishing Steps” and if you are able to walk up and down with your eyes closed your wish will come true… of course we did that. It then started to rain so we decided to go back into Cork and get lunch. My friend Melody and I went to a burger place in the center of Cork and it was amazing one thing interesting about Italy is that they never put real meat in there food so it was a great change from what we were eating.

Julie and I on top of Blarney Castle

Me, Julie and Brigid exploring the gardens

Me climbing the wishing steps!

Later that night Melody and I decided to go to a traditional Irish Pub and it was fabulous! We met new people, heard Irish music and drank Irish cider. We ended up staying out way to late and were so tired we went straight to bed when we got home.

Cork

The next day was pretty low key we did some window shopping and Melodys suitcase ended up breaking so we had to get a new one so we spent most of the day looking for the perfect suitcase. Later on that night we decided that we wanted to go see a movie. We went and saw No Strings Attached. It was actually very cute movie. We later returned back to our hostel packed our bags and went to bed because we were leaving early in the morning to go to Dublin.

Our alarm went off at 6:30am and we quickly changed and headed out to the bus station to catch a bus to Dublin that left at 8:00. Our bus ride ended up being four hours which put us in Dublin around 12. We quickly went to our hostel where we met Emily, Jackie and Carrie and headed out for horse back riding. Our horse back riding ended up being 30 minutes outside of Dublin in Wicklow. We arrived at the horse back riding place and got on our horses and were trained for about 30 minutes and then began our ride. We were taking up through the different forests of Wicklow and views were absolutely amazing. Our ride lasted about an hour and we then made our way back to Dublin where we had dinner. After having dinner we walked around a little bit then decided to go back and get some sleep because we had to get up early for a day tour.

We woke up early the next morning and did a tour of Wicklow National Park and different small towns surrounding Dublin. My favorite part of the trip was when we went to the location of where part of the movie P.S I Love You was filmed. That is one of my favorite movies so I was very excited to see this.

Melody, Me and Emily

Emily and I on the P.S. I Love You Bridge

Later on we got to see the land where the owner of Guinness lived, which is conveniently located just off Guinness lake.

Guinness Lake

Fun Fact: The owner of Guinness does not have any children and spends half his time in Ireland and the other in India (his wife is from there).

We stopped for lunch in this small little town called Avoca. After having lunch we then went to the Avoca Handweavers which was built in 1723 and is the oldest mill in Ireland. It was very cool and I ended up splurging and buying a pink and green blanket. After buying my gift for myself we then returned back to Dublin.

Avoca

Part of the wool mill

Later that night we went to an Irish Dance at a local hotel. I highly recommend going to one. We went to the Irish Dance at the Arlington Hotel. It was so good before the dancing they had an irish band and then they were followed by the dancers. The dancers were so fantastic and I even got pulled up on stage!!

The Irish Dancers

Me on stage

After dancing we went out to explore the nightlife in Dublin and went to this place called the Temple Bar. If you are ever in Ireland go to Temple Bar you will not be disappointed. They had live bands performing and it was actually a huge bar. We ended up spending most of the night in Temple Bar and made some friends!

Me and Melody!

Melody, Me, Emily and our new friend Jessica

(jessica was in our hostel room with us!!)

The next day was our last day in Dublin and we spent it at the Guinness Factory. We took the Dublin tram, which dropped us off about 2 blocks away from the factory. The Guinness tour was a self-guided tour to see how they make Guinness Beer. It was actually very interesting and throughout the tour they had little demonstration videos showing the process. At the end you were able to see if you could pour the perfect pint of Guinness. Needless to say Emily and I perfected the perfect pint!

Emily and I poured the perfect pint!

We then returned for an afternoon of shopping and packing. We were very sad to leave Dublin but before we left we needed one night out before leaving. Our flight left early on Sunday morning so we decided that it was best that we do not go to sleep so we stayed out until 3 in the morning exploring the different pubs of Ireland. Finally at 4 we checked out of our hostel and walked up to O’Connell street where we caught the bus to the airport. We arrived at our gate and boarded it back to Rome.

Overall, Ireland was a fantastic and I encourage anyone who is studying abroad to visit it. This coming weekend I am staying in Rome however next weekend I am meeting my friends who are studying abroad in Madrid in London. I am very excited!! However, before I can get to this weekend I have take an Italian midterm… I realized that I am not good at Italian so this might not work out too well.

-All for now

Erin.

Gettin’ Rich in Oman: A Users Guide (for Americans)

Gettin’ Rich in Oman: A Users Guide (for Americans)

So in 2006 the creation of a US-Oman free trade agreement was approved. It finally came into action in January 2009 in addition to all the amenities that come with traditional FTAs (no tariffs and trade barriers), it also created certain – perks to help facilitate American foreign investment in to Oman.

Because of the FTA, American-owned businesses that are started in Oman are given the same treatment as Omani-owned businesses. Also – the standard initial investment need to start a business in Oman is like OMR 60,000 ($150,000 about) but for American businesses this amount is reduced to only OMR 20,000 ($50,000 about).

So here’s what you do. Just because you are an American you immediately have explicit advantages over other nationalities looking to invest in Oman. So you find a foreign company – tell ’em, “hey, I’m an American, I can get a market for your product started in Oman right quick. Plus – I know the culture, speak the language, and can find my way around the city and the government – just give me 5% and you’ll have three million new potential customers”

After my time in Oman I plan to study at the Beijing Center in China. My goal at graduation is too be an expert in the Middle East, East Asia, Economics, and local languages (I speak French, I’m learning Arabic now, and soon will know Mandarin). If I can find a Chinese corporation looking to expand, and can give them the inherent advantages of my nationality in Oman as well as my knowledge of the region – boom. I’ve done it.

So there’s that. Insha’allah.

The Little Things

The Little Things

So I’ve been reading some Thich Nhat Hanh recently for my religion class with Fr. Julio, and to tell the truth it is quite interesting. One of the things the book mentions is to live in the moment and enjoy the little things. Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling in the past, be mindful of the present. Mindful living helps to relieve stress. This isn’t saying do random things spontaneously, but it is saying to live in the moment, because that makes the moment more meaningful than being absent minded. So I the past week before my trip to Cambodia, I’ve tried to practice this along with meditative breathing exercises, and I feel a lot more calm than usual, probably because usually I’m always planning ahead/worrying about the future. With my mindful exercise I did two things: do laundry and dance in the rain.

I had been putting off doing laundry for some time. It was high time I did it, because I was running low on clean clothes, and to recycle clothes was not an option. I was thinking about taking my clothes to a nearby shop, but then I read a line from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching which said something along the lines of, “Every chore done should not be done with monotony, because that chore is a miracle. Every moment is a miracle because you are simply alive. So breath deeply and rejoice for every dish you wash or floor you scrub.” With that, I put my book down and walked over to my overflowing hamper. “It is time” I thought to myself. I picked up the hamper and waked into the bathroom carefully (the first day I walked in casually and slipped because the bathroom is always wet because there is no separate shower, just a showerhead a few feet from the toilet and sink). I walked up to the large green bucket under the dripping faucet under the showerhead and began to run the water. As the water flowed I took the bag of detergent from atop the toilet and sprinkled some in. A few moments later I turned off the faucet and looked at the full bucket. The water reflecting my image amidst bubbles would not last long. It was time to get dirty.
I poured my clothes in from the hamper to the bucket and then ripped off my tshirt to join the mix. Now bare-chested I sat cross-legged on the floor and plunged my hands into the bucket and began to slosh around joyfully. About halfway through Nghiem came home from his class and approached me in the bathroom, “Do you want my help?” “Sure,” I said and gestured him to come over. He sat down and I sprung up, “I have an idea”, I walked over to my laptop and put on some American 80’s pop music. After that the laundry dance party commenced. Nghiem and I washed, wrung, rewashed, slapped, mashed, and hung a large amount of laundry while belting out vocals to high for us and bobbing with synth beats. It was so much fun. Bubbles flew and dirt was pounded and thrashed from clothes that had endured blistering days in Ho Chi Minh city and rural Viet Nam. Taking a simple chore and making it fun. Celebrating the mundane. I’m glad to have been reading that book, otherwise I wouldn’t have had this experience and would probably be sitting in stinky clothes.

My second instance of living in the moment was dancing in the rain. It went a little something like this:

It was only a few days before we would depart for Cambodia. It was a hot and lazy afternoon. Classes were over for the day and I had already visited Green Bamboo shelter. Most folks were sitting around. Nghiem and I were out on the upper lobby balcony reading: I was reading more about Buddhism and he was reading cultural anthropology (in English mind you). Between the two of us we were sharing a dragonfruit and some rice crackers. We were happily reading when Robbie came up the stairs, his shirt a little wet. “Is it raining?” I asked with a puzzled face. Sure there had been some breezes foretelling a storm, but that had happened so many days in a row followed by no rain I felt like the people in the boy who cried wolf story. It hadn’t rained yet in Vietnam and because it was still the dry season, I didn’t have much hope. However Robbie responded, “Yeah it was raining over near Koto (his volunteer organization), and its heading this way.” He walked past us and Nghiem as I looked excitedly at each other. It was going to rain. We both had smiles on our faces as we rushed back to our room to put away our things in preparation for the rain.
As I was putting away my books, my mind drifted away to India. Last summer during my stay in India was dominated by the dry season. I was living in Jaipur which is on the edge of India and Pakistan’s Great Thar Desert. Only in the last few weeks did the rain come, and when it came did it feel good. I remember the first rain in India. Boy was it special. It was an ordinary hot dry day and my Hindi classes had finished. I was sitting around Raja park at the local thread store run by two Hindu brothers Ramesh and Suresh, and helped by their attendant Faizal Khan, a seventeen year old Muslim from nearby Ajmer. I was practicing my Hindi and listening to a Punjabi MC song drifting over from a nearby barber shop. Suddenly, a fierce wind whipped up the sand and then the rain began to fall in huge sheets. Without even thinking, I ran out from the shop’s awning and began to dance in the rain in the middle of the street as camels and pedestrians ran for cover. My kurta became soaked and stuck to my body but I kept dancing. I kicked off my shoes and danced in the muddy sand. It was complete bliss. I hadn’t felt rain in months, so I extended my arms and just danced around. Just when I had had enough, Faizal threw me the key to unlock his bicycle. In a heartbeat I was on that sucker and peddled barefoot up an down the deserted streets as the rain kept beating down. I threw up my legs and yelled out whoops of joy as I sloshed threw puddles. I felt like a child. The store attendants smiled, holed up in their shops. It was such a great moment. Something I will not forget in my lifetime.

But back to the present! Live in the moment, right? So I snapped back from Jaipur and threw on some shorts. I ran back down the stairs as the rains began to roll in. The other American students cheered as thunder clapped and lighting hit the sky. Leon, a CIE student, asked, “First Viet Nam rain?” All the Loyola students replied with a resounding, “Yes!” “I can tell. It’s an experience huh?”
Everyone was gathering at the balcony to watch the rain. Within minutes the power went out and Ho Chi Minh City went dark. It was a cool feeling. But enough with watching, I had to go dance. Monica, a Cambodian-American, Emily, a Chinese-Americam, and myself ran out into the rain and began to dance around, hop up and down, and slosh in puddles. It was great. Like Jaipur, I lost myself in the moment and just smiled in the rain, something I take for granted back stateside, but something to be valued in pre-monsoon season Asia. Gabe, another Loyola student soon joined us and we continued to dance in the downpour. I had a big smile on my face. It was so nice to have all that water just pouring over everything, to hear the thunder rumble, and see the Vietnamese enjoy watching us silly Americans making fools out of ourselves. But hey it was worth it. Soon the other Americans grew tired and went to go dry off, but I kept going. I left the alley and went out onto the main street where traffic was at a standstill and the street vendors had disappeared. I ran up and down, with the cool water falling over my body, arms outstretched and head cocked towards the heavens. Vietnamese students across the street in the University smiled and waved. The little things in life can be the best. You don’t need fancy things if you can find joy in life’s simple things, like rain or doing laundry. Everything we have is a miracle from God, so love the little things. Life is a gift, one that won’t last forever. Don’t let precious time slip by, live in the moment. Be PRESENT! So next time it rains, consider dancing, and when you can, share a smile!

A Press Release

A Press Release

So I was asked to write a piece for a Loyola Press Release about the Vietnam Center, so here it is on my blog. Hopefully it will perk up people’s interest in the program!

It is simply amazing being on this one of a kind program. I feel like a trailblazer, being part of the inaugural ‘class’ at the Vietnam Center. That is part of the reason I rushed to sign up, as well as the fact I would actually save money going abroad in Vietnam as compared to other programs where I would burn through my savings quickly, explore Southeast Asia, and the fact I would be doing a lot of service. I think other students will consider coming to the Vietnam Center in the future for these same reasons. Off the beaten path compared to other study abroad programs, this gives students opportunities for exciting new experiences. For example: I got the chance to spend Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, with my roommate’s family up in rural central Vietnam on the coast of the South China Sea. I was fed delicious Vietnamese delicacies at home, dined on simple bowls of rice with Buddhist monks and nuns at a pagoda in the mountains, told my roommate’s family I that like dragonfruit and was then promptly handed a bag of thirty dragonfruit from their plantation, explored the ruins of ancient Hindu hill temples, saw parades of acrobats and dragon dancers amidst fireworks and beating drums, swerved through intense traffic on the back of a motorbike, and went swimming in the South China Sea. That was all within the course of a week!

During actual school weeks I spend most of my time in Green Bamboo, a shelter for boys living on the street that helps provide them with education, vocational skills, and eventually reunites them with their families. I am the new ESL teacher, and also simply a big buddy for the boys who range in age from eight years old all the way up to boys who are eighteen, only two years younger than me, and holding part time jobs. These boys love to play and learn about America and the English language. Their hearts are so large and after the older boys challenge me to friendly wrestling matches, the younger ones like to curl up on my lap for a nap. Working at the shelter is rewarding for both me and the boys. This service that I am doing is a component of our Development class, one of our two required classes along with Vietnamese. There are several interesting electives to choose from, and I even got to create my own class. There was no Theology class listed for the program, and as a Theology major I requested one be made, so Fr. Julio Giulietti worked together with the Theology Department and Office of International Programs and I had my class: Religion in Vietnam, taught by Fr. Julio himself. Fr. Julio has set up meetings with several local religious leaders, and is planning trips to Buddhist centers to compliment our readings. Classes themselves are also very small and that gives each student a more personal and engaging experience. Classes range from being held in the Vietnamese University, at the Loyola Center, on site somewhere, or even in a café with some Vietnamese coffee, or ca phe, to stimulate discussion. We also have done several fieldtrips, such as a trip we did with our Environmental Studies class today to explore the mangrove forest we covered yesterday in our lecture or the fieldtrip we did last week to see how Ho Chi Minh City is improving its infrastructure by upgrading its canal system. This program is truly hands on. It is unmatched in the immersion you experience. The center is so small that everyone is very close: the five Loyola students, our Vietnamese roommates who have quickly become our best friends and guides to this beautiful country, Trinh our secretary, Vien our Coordinator, Mr. Ky Nguyen our Administrative Assistant, Dr. Rylan Higgins our main professor and Program Director , and Fr. Julio Giulietti the Vietnam Center Director. It is a very personal environment where the whole Loyola community can meet for dinner and tea and then head out for an evening of karaoke, which is good change of pace from Loyola back in Chicago where it is impossible to know everyone. Ho Chi Minh city itself is very dynamic, with many rural Vietnamese flocking for jobs, Vietnamese living in the West returning to re-unite with their families and open business in the booming economy, foreign investors arriving in the emerging market, a trickle of tourists from across the world, and now us: five Loyola students seeking to explore a new place on the other end of the globe. With everything I have said, I truly mean it when I say this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus the program isn’t even halfway over. We still get to travel to the Mekong Delta, Northern Vietnam, Cambodia, and a smattering of smaller trips to compare these locals to Ho Chi Minh City. There are bound to be many more exciting happenings before this program concludes. If you are an undergraduate I strongly recommend you apply for this new program.

University of Nizwa Students Save the Day!

University of Nizwa Students Save the Day!

Yeah not really – this is just a reference to Jimmy’s crazy post about Vietnam. Like I said in my last post, I was at the University of Nizwa in the interior region of Oman last week (Oh yeah – weeks here are Saturday to Wednesday, just in case anyone is thrown off – I know I am). While we were there we witnessed a rare but increasingly common student march. They had the standard assortment of demands – job guarantees, higher pay, and cancelling loans – but they also had one I hadn’t heard before: access to more English instruction.

So, I suppose I should preface this by saying that all the classes at the University of Nizwa are taught in English – all of them. And these kids take some hard classes – microbiology, petrochemical engineering, calculus. And they are given absolutely no leeway in terms of language flexibility. From the conversations I had with my roommates they are seriously working their butts off not only to learn the course material, but also to learn it in English. I was talking to one student and he was lamenting how he got a B- in a class – when I asked him what it would’ve been if the class were in Arabic he unequivocally said A. For the 7000 students on the campus there is a small little annex on the far side of campus which houses a few staff who provide tutoring services. That’s it.

Now try to imagine this. You just graduated high school. You’ve done well on your mandatory huge graduation exams and made it into a good school. You’ve taken English for a few years but – you know – you don’t pay much attention to language classes in High School. You can “get by”.

Now fast forward to your first class on your first day at College. It’s philosophy 101 or something. Your instructor starts speaking in English as he hands out the syllabus. You can catch certain words, you know he’s talking about something in the future – but you’re struggling to keep up. A month later you have a test – you’re still trying to English-Arabic dictionary your way through the first day’s readings – it sucks. After my time in Nizwa I feel like, as a student who lucky enough to learn in his mother tongue, has no excuse to get any grade lower than an A.

Anyway – later that same night we the Sultan made several new Royal Decrees. I don’t think it’s directly because of the Nizwa student march (at all actually) but in response to protests around the country. Several ministries were reshuffled and without a doubt the biggest change was the abolishment – the abolishment – of the Ministry of the National Economy. The whole bloody thing! So yeah – that was last week. Stay tuned.

Well this is one way to spend a spring break.

Well this is one way to spend a spring break.

Hello all.

You are probably wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while. Then again maybe you aren’t, as I said I would be going to Greece. Well I had planned to write a fair well post last Wednesday night, boy did that plan change.

I will spare some of the details otherwise this could become a very long post, and it’s a bit personal and hard to talk about. But I did want to update all my followers on what has been going on, so they need not worry but rather just keep me in their thoughts and prayers.

Now that I may have freaked you out a little I will explain myself.  Wednesday afternoon I started to feel real iffy. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned before but I have been diagnosed for almost 3 years with ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD. I was having some symptoms of what those in the medical biz like to call a ‘flare’, meaning when the disease rears its ugly head. As the evening went on I was taking a turn towards the worse. I sought some help from Christina one of the student life assistants. And in the process of calling the local clinic to get me an appointment I fainted for the first time in my life. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital. I was told I’d have to stay the night just to be monitored. My parents were called, just so they wouldn’t worry. I’d probably be back the next day. I was wrong.

I was feeling a lot better the next day and into Friday, and after some tests they said if my next blood test was good I’d be sent back to the Rome Center. That was until the results of my chest x-ray came back. Apparently I showed inflammation in my lungs of some kind. Now a quick note about IBD, it can cause inflammation not only in the digestive tract but literally anywhere it seems. Plus the meds I am on are also known to cause weird side effects. Funny thing is that my sister was just in the hospital for a similar inflammation in the lungs situation and it turned out to be nothing of concern. So I am very positive that is the case for me.

So today is Monday, this morning my Dad arrived. This has helped my mood greatly, plus he has been very business like and trying to do what he can to help my cause. They still need to run two more tests, a CT scan and something where they go down and check out the lungs (yikes). The problem is, this is an Italian public hospital. They do everything one at a time, and very slowly. For instance they took blood this morning with the full results coming in Wednesday, just in time for my scheduled CT scan. In talking with the various doctors, it sounds like if we get these tests done, the results will be very quick and I can get out of here soon. They are telling me at the earliest that will be Wednesday. So I’m really praying, but I’m also confident that it’s nothing but a side effect of my meds or scar tissue or something. Because I should also mention I have no other symptoms; no cough, chest pain, congestion. I’m other wise a healthy kid, so that is what is most frustrating.

I am nearly going insane here, if I did not now have access to the internet and movies and if my dad was not here, I would be a lot worse. I should also note that Mike Beazley and Cindy Bomben, two JFRC staff have been incredibly helpful in so many ways; translation, bringing me stuff from my dorm, etc. I cannot thank them enough, I could never possibly fully repay them for all their time an effort. I’m really trying to remain positive in light of this really crappy situation. I’d appreciate all the readers to keep myself and my family in their thoughts and prayers; it’s been a tough situation so far.

So this is a very roundabout way of saying I was not able to go to Greece as planned, but there are really more important things in life. And we are not always in control of what happens. C’est la vie….wait that’s French, and I’m in Italy, so maybe I am going crazy.

Laid up for Spring Break

Laid up for Spring Break

Since I’m a bit laid up, I haven’t had energy to blog (I’ll explain real soon) Here is a post from my other blog, since I started this blog late. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

012 – Vive il Papa

If you know anything about the Italian language you probably guessed what the title says/is referring to. For the rest of you it means “long live the father” (aka The Pope).

That being said, let’s dive right into blogging shall we?

Pretty uneventful start to the week. You know the whole “having class” thing. But they call it study abroad for a reason. I gotta say I’m really getting used to life over here. It’s still wayyy different than in America. I still prefer the hustle and bustle, but this is a welcome break from all of that. Lately I find myself staying up quite late and waking up early, so basically the typical life of a college student. As for missing my American tv shows you may ask? It’s not so bad. I have my ways of watching them if necessary, but again, this is a nice break from all those distractions, though now I’m finding that this blog/uploading pictures is a new distraction. Don’t worry, exploring comes first…the pictures and updates some second. I really can’t wait for spring break in Greece. That is going to be super amazing. Wait, I’m going to Paris on FRIDAY. Let’s enjoy that first!

Alora, oggi andiamo visitare il papa! Today was our semi-private audience with the Pope. So a number of us got up and left at 6:30am (for a 10:30am start time) in order to get good seats. We got 2nd row, so it was worth it to get up that early. It took place in an audience hall just to the left of the basilica, a pretty cool room if you ask me. After what seemed like forever of sitting there, Bennedetto XVI came out to a pretty rousing applause. Various bishops then welcomed everyone in various languages. Next was Bennie’s speech, in what I think was latin/italian(?), he was kind of mumbling. Then the same bishops came back up and announced the various groups in attendance. Some groups, when announced, sang a song (like the group of Polish school girls, who kind of looked Amish with their weird get-ups). We at the Rome Center had no song prepared. We just clapped and he gave us what I like to call the “Gary Zilavy Three-Finger How You Doing (C)”

It was pretty incredible to be that close to such a worldly figure. Even if you aren’t Catholic or whatever he’s still a famous and commendable person. Then to wrap up the audience, he sang the Our Father in Latin (thought it was a dead language, but we’ll go with it) and then proceed to generally bless the items we had, and I mean everything. Yes, if you had a pack of gum in your pocket, it is now blessed. Mother if you are reading this. I had picked up a pack of a dozen rosaries, yes a dozen. And I will be distributing them to family and friends. I also had picked up a St. Michael necklace charm and chain on the super cheap, figure I’ll be a necklace guy for a while.

On a slightly less exciting note, the calico (soccer) teams were announced. I’m on team Green, which means nothing really for you people. But just know Team Green is going to dominate this calcio league.

Right then, hope everyone is safe and sound on account of the Blizzard of 2011. Send me some pictures! I’m a little upset. I love snow. But then again, I’ll take 55 and sunny.

I’ll post again after this weekend in Paris. Also GO PACK GO!!!!

Makin’ Friends and Drinkin’ Juice

Makin’ Friends and Drinkin’ Juice

This week we are on an excursion to the Unviersity of Nizwa, about an hour and a half west of Muscat. The interior region is more conservative than the more cosmopolitan Muscat, so the males and the females are having very different experiences.

The girls are staying with another homestay family somewhere in Nizwa, and the guys are lodging with some Omani college students in a dorm-eque hostel. So for this week it’s me and the boys stoopin’ it with some Omanis. It’s pretty cool. Living with Omanis my age has given me a better idea of the dynamics of this culture. There a few students from Bedouin family who are always getting ragged on for their accent. And another guy is from Sohar (thie city which had the protests), and they were joking that he lived in the supermarket that got burned down.

I lived one of my (more conservative) dreams last night, which was explaining to foreigners what English swear words meant. Although the conversation was juvenile, I though it was hilarious.

Nizwa is a little different from Muscat. It’s hard for me to gauge it because I’m living with guys from all over the country, but people here seem to be much more welcoming. Now, Muscat is already welcoming to begin with, so here it’s like – overkill welcoming.

Last night we were trying to hail a cab to get to the Hungy Bunny down the street from the University, and a guy we had never met before stopped and gave us a ride (generally not uncommon in Oman). But after that he gave me his phone number and is going to give us a tour of the School of Applied Sciences. Also, earlier today we were in a small town called Bahla, and the owner of a small halwa stand invited us in for coffee and dates, showed us how he makes halwa, gave us a big bag of dates, and then took my phone number so he could drive to Muscat to bring us fresh halwa next week. It’s a little bit too much, honestly. Anyhoo this week is going well and I’ll give a more complete overview once it’s over.