The GoGlobal Blog

Month: April 2018

Strutting the Streets of Barcelona

Strutting the Streets of Barcelona

Ah, Barcelona. Before this trip, most of what I knew of Barcelona came from my extensive knowledge of The Cheetah Girls 2, which they don’t even have on Netflix there… The city definitely exceeded my expectations. The colors, streets, food, language, and company all made Barcelona one of my top visits this semester.

Our flight landed at about 5pm or so. While traveling is one of my favorite hobbies, it’s definitely exhausting to say the least. Plane rides somehow suck all the life out of me so the last thing I want to do is take an hour commute to some crummy hostel where not even the towels are complimentary. But you know me, anything to save a buck. When we got to the hostel, we settled down and knew right away our first destination had to be for some paella near La Rambla, a famous food market. I didn’t really know what this was, but paella and I got very acquainted over the next few days. Funny thing was, although we had two native Spanish speakers aboard, myself included, we were drastically misunderstood and brought one medium sized paella for all six of us to share. I guess those two bites were tasty? Being the Americans that we are, we ended up at KFC about an hour later.

After our makeshift dinner, we decided to get some drinks and explore the night life. We ended up at an Irish pub, indulging in some Women’s Passion (the cocktail of the day). When we realized the pub catered to an…older crowd…we attempted to find a livelier scene. To our dismay, we were told that the nightlife doesn’t truly come alive until after 1am. We hightailed it back to the hostel and crashed for the night.

On day two, we took a tour of the Gothic quarter and were able to walk the lovely streets just before it started to rain. Rain in Spain is something I can’t quite explain, as even the showers look graceful on the cobblestone streets. We stopped at a hole in the wall restaurant for some more paella and patatas bravas and croquettas, and ate till our bellies were full and our spirits were high. We went back to the hostel for a true siesta and woke up feeling truly refreshed. What’s a trip to Spain without a visit to the beach? We trekked the mile or two to the sandy refuge and basked in the sea salted air, feeling wind in our faces and giggling at Spanish men who tried to spit game at American tourists. That night we experienced a true Spanish club and danced the night away. 5am rolled around and tapped us on the shoulder which was our cue to get going.

We turned in for the night and woke up just in time the next day to make our visit to La Sagrada Familia. From the outside, the massive cathedral is a mix of muted colors with signs of construction clinging to the walls. We managed to prebook our tickets and found ourselves in the midst of a church that was decorated with the prettiest stained glass windows I’ve ever seen. The interior was bathed in reds and golds and greens and blues, accentuating the intricate details of the amazing architecture. The building itself was a force to be reckoned with, although I’d beware of the 15 euro entrance fee, as most of the structure is under construction and unavailable to the public.

After our visit we went back to La Rambla and found a fantastic flea market. We walked along the booths and found little treasures that went past a typical keychain souvenir. There was jewelry, hair wraps, clothes, shoes, and other trinkets that made for great keepsakes. After the flea market we went back to the hostel to regroup. A few of my friends and I bought tickets to the much-anticipated Barcelona soccer game, which we could not have been more excited about. We had a great tapa dinner and made our way to the stadium. My favorite thing about soccer culture is the unwavering support from the fans. With everyone decked out in the team’s gear, it’s quite hard not to get hyped. The game itself was amazing. Seeing Messi on the field is truly once-in-a-lifetime and I wouldn’t trade the experience of bouncing off the seats for a goal for anything.

Overall, Barcelona was a trip that was full of good company, great food, and unforgettable experiences. While it’s been recommended to me by many, it’s my turn to recommend it to all of you. And don’t forget to try the paella.

-Andrea

 

22 Days Left

22 Days Left

It’s crazy to think how much time has flown by. I feel like I haven’t done a lot during my time here. However, I have. I have had the great opportunity to travel all over Europe, which I thought would be impossible as a low-income and first-generation student. Yes, money gets tight. But there is nothing that budgeting can’t help you with right? I have learned SO much during my time here and I want to share with you what I have learned so far.

  1. GO OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE: I know it can be extremely hard to talk to people you don’t know, but this is the time to get comfortable. if you end up having an awkward encounter it doesn’t matter. You will likely not see those people after your semester here either way. My own personal example is when I met up with a random classmate in the bus stop. We were both going towards the same direction. Instead of dispersing right away, we decided to explore together. If I didn’t decide to do that, I would have never been able to visit Castel Sant’Angelo. One of Rome’s most famous castles. Take on an adventure with someone you normally wouldn’t. It could be worth your time.
  2. CREATE TIME FOR SCHOOL: There is always plans when you are studying abroad. It can be hard to catch up on the stuff you want to and need to do. You must remember that you are here to study. I have found myself slacking with schoolwork when back at home I would be on top of it. Make yourself a schedule and make sure to follow it. Don’t get distracted by social media or watch Netflix. Sit down and reflect on what you need to do and get it done. Preferably, without people around you. This will lead you to concentrate more with fewer distractions.
  3. MAKE SURE TO TRAVEL IN THE DATE OF YOUR CORRESPONDED TICKET: I recently went with Venice and I misread the date I was supposed to go. I don’t know how it happened but it did. It was super stressful at first because I thought I was going to get caught. At the beginning I didn’t. I was calm and cozy and was even able to take a map. On the way back though, it was a mess. I needed to show my ticket because a couple came in claiming it was their seat. I had to go talk to one of the workers and he offered me options since technically I was not on the right train. First off all, he was extremely rude. I explained the situation and he completely shut me off. He made it seem like I was lying to him when I wasn’t. On the way to Venice, one of the workers said it was fine that I was on the train because there was something wrong in the system. At this point, I knew I had gotten lucky. All in all, make sure you do everything you need to do before boarding your train. Including going on the right date
  4. DON’T LET YOUR EDUCATION GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE: It may not make sense since you are here to study abroad, but think of it this way. You are here studying abroad in a whole different culture and environment. Instead of solely focusing on your classes and staying in the library, make sure to go outside and interact with locals. Increase the knowledge of the place you are studying in. Become more interactive and informed of the ways to navigate yourself around the city. Don’t stay stuck to your books. I know it’s important, but there are ways you can do both. Instead of staying in to study, go to a café to study. Get the cultural experience while you are studying abroad. Make it worth it.

There are so many things studying abroad has taught me and I can definitely say it has transformed me as a person. I feel more comfortable interacting with people I don’t know and I feel like I can navigate things more independently now. I had a lot of easy  accessibility to the things I needed back at home, such as money, food, and comfort. Studying here I don’t have all of that, but I have learned to manage random obstacles and even overcome them. I am still in the learning process though. There is always room to learn right? I am going to make the best out of these 22 days left and learn as much as I can, but also have fun! I’m excited and sad at the same time to leave. But hey, it’s been a good run so far!

Here are some of the places I have visited so far!

 

Ciao!

Jessica Criollo

ONE WEEK LEFT

ONE WEEK LEFT

Next week is the last of my internship and honestly this came really fast. Everything after Spring Break tends to go super quick, though. To celebrate the end of my internship, I’m going to be going to Santorini, Greece next weekend and I’m so excited for it. Treat yourself, why not? My roommate and I are going together so hang out on the beach to destress from this semester. I know I need it.

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Pretty in Paris

Pretty in Paris

Make sure to visit this at night for a stunning light show every hour on the hour
If you can afford it, the views from the tower are breath-taking

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Europe before. I saw some cities in Spain, France, and Italy, and loved them all enough to come back. Recently, I returned from a trip to Paris, which I saw last time I was in Europe.

I thought I wouldn’t have much to do, since I’d been to the Eiffel Tower, seen inside the Louvre, and entered the Notre Dame, but I didn’t have enough time to visit half of what I wanted to.

As preparation for this semester abroad, I hunted down works of fiction that took place in Europe as inspiration on where to visit during my stay, and I had a few new ideas on what to see in Paris. This trip was so fun because it was like a scavenger hunt, I was either viewing the touristic attractions in a new light or visiting places a tourist would normally walk by.

Be sure to look for the cat if you don’t have the time to read part of a book in there
A complicated, beautiful work of art. If you think it’s pretty on the outside, wait until you walk in

I highly recommend reading a couple books that take place in the countries you’d like to visit, because that way you’ll learn about new places to visit, or gain more knowledge on places you already know of.

Thanks to the books I have read, I was able to visit the church of St. Etienne du Mont, Shakespeare & Company, and learn more about Point Zero.

I learned Point Zero is where all distances in France are measured. Apparently if you make a wish on it, it’ll come true, and if you don’t make a wish, you’re bound to return to Paris again one day.

Don’t worry, I made sure to stop at Point Zero before I left Paris, but I can’t tell you what I wished for, or it won’t come true!

It’s worn away from the tourists walking past, to Notre Dame
Bi Nka Bi – No One Should Bite the Other

Bi Nka Bi – No One Should Bite the Other

At the edge of campus on the Wednesday before Easter, Phil, Elly, and I climbed into an SUV in our Sunday best. We were on our way to the wedding of someone named Ethan from Florida – someone none of us knew.

The driver of the SUV was a young woman named Selly. She wore her natural hair and was dressed in a white lace dress that starkly contrasted her smooth, dark skin. Her mother was in the passenger seat, also dressed in white. She plugged her iPhone into the center console and played Ghanaian pop music as we drove off campus. As we introduced ourselves from the backseat, I was struck by her sudden comfort with us, three young white people whom she’d never met. I grew to be equally comfortable with her on the short ride to the venue.

The event was a traditional Ghanaian engagement and marriage ceremony. It involves the groom-to-be and his family presenting gifts of food, drink, and cash to the family of the bride-to-be. Today, the groom was not Ghanaian, and neither was his family, but he still was presenting gifts in exchange for the bride’s hand. But his family remained in Florida – so who would be able to participate in the wedding?

TL;DR, it was his sisters Elly and Anna, and his brother Phil.

Family pic. LtR: Elly, George, Georgina, Ethan, me, Phil.

The long version is that the bride, Georgina, was friends with Selly, the woman who picked us up at campus, and Selly used to work in UG’s International Programming Offices, where USAC’s current resident director Abigail is stationed. Selly petitioned Abigail on behalf of Georgina for Abigail to send some American students to act as a surrogate family for the groom. Otherwise, Ethan would have no family who could present the wedding gifts. Got it? Ethan -> Georgina -> Selly -> Abigail -> Anna -> Elly, Phil.

Doesn’t matter. On the Wednesday before Easter, Anna, Elly, and Phil were adopted family members for Ethan from Florida.

Technicalities of the ceremony requirements aside, I ask you, dear reader, to imagine being in Ethan’s position. How would you feel coming to Ghana for the first time to get married? Would you invite strangers to be in your wedding party? Would you ask a stranger to become your sister, knowing that you might never meet again?

Akosua, sister of the bride, and her partner at the drinks table.

The ceremony was lively and loud and beautiful. The bride, Georgina, was dressed in a two-piece dress woven of multicolored kente, with jewelry around her neck and adorning her hair, and she was holding a fan made of white feathers. She took my breath away, and I bet Ethan felt similarly. We were invited to sing, dance, shake the hands of Georgina’s family, take photos with cousins and sisters, invited to a feast fit for royalty. And the event wasn’t in a banquet center or a huge garden – it was in Georgina’s family home.

Now, can you put yourself in this position? Your daughter is getting married to an American man whose ways of life are vastly different from your own. He isn’t familiar in the Akan marriage tradition, and yet he still wants to participate in one. What does it take for you to open your home to him and his (albeit, fake) family? To offer them food, welcome them into your home, dance and sing with them, add photos with them to the wedding album that you will show your future grandchildren?

Tables set up under a marquee in the yard of the family house.

Phil, Elly, and I decided to leave the festivities just as the heat of the sun was becoming weak, around 4pm. I was full of fufu and jollof and sobolo with a huge smile on my face, and the three of us joked about the more bizarre aspects of the day as we waited by the house gate for Selly to come out.

She drove us to ISH and the drive back felt a lot longer than the drive there. As we left the car, I said yɛbɛhyia – see you later. Literally, it means “we will meet again.”

—————

Alone in my room, I sat in thought and wonder at the hospitality of everyone I’d encountered that day. The whole day had felt surreal, but comfortable. As Selly got to know me in her car, I felt appreciated. When Ethan asked me to fill the role of his sister, I felt honored. When Georgina’s family opened their doors to me, I felt accepted. I’d suddenly felt at home with this family I didn’t know and the family I’d just become a part of. What new kind of hospitality was this? There were no presuppositions, no judgments, no uncomfortable gazes – they welcomed me as if they had always known me as an intimate friend. Even the language of the Akan is welcoming: everyone greets you with akwaaba – you are welcome here; saying thank you, medaase, literally means “I lay at your feet;” yɛbɛhyia – we will meet again.

Can you put yourself in my position?

I navigate my small part of Accra with the language of laying yourself at a stranger’s feet, ensuring them you will always meet again. I cram myself in the back of a trotro with a stranger pressing their arm up against me. Strangers ask me where I’m from, asking me for my phone number so they can get to know me. Sometimes, men ask if I will marry them as I’m waiting in line to get lunch.

What do you do when socialization requires a level of intimacy with strangers that you’re not familiar with? When the friend of a friend of a friend asks you to pretend to be someone’s sister? When suddenly your understanding of personal space is inconsequential?

I am endlessly grateful that I am able to be here in Accra, but I think I am more grateful to those I’ve met along the way, whose attitudes of intimacy and hospitality have sometimes been challenging. I didn’t come here to be comfortable, so I don’t resist these challenges. Was Selly comfortable putting three American kids in her car to take them across town? Did Ethan get married in Ghana without his family present because it was more comfortable? Was it comfortable for Georgina and her family to open their home to American strangers? Maybe, maybe not. But what rises above insistence on personal boundaries and comfort is extending welcoming to strangers.

It might be hard for you to put yourself in my position. If it is, I challenge you to look more closely at Africans, at Ghanaians, at the city of Accra. They might be strangers to you, but they don’t bite. You are welcome here.

The newlyweds dancing after the ceremony.

Yɛbɛhyia,

Anna

The Necessary trip to Barcelona

The Necessary trip to Barcelona

Hi!

When I first decided to study abroad, many of my friends who had travelled before told me I absolutely had to go to Barcelona. They described the extraordinary atmosphere of the city and how they wished they had to opportunity to go there again. When I finally made the decision to go there this past weekend, multiple people in Switzerland from the exchange student residence hall that I live in echoed similar sentiments.

All of this was completely new to me, as most people have never been to Switzerland before or had even heard of Malta, which was the first big travel I did two weeks ago. For the first time I wouldn’t be nearly blindly discovering a city and then figuring out if it is a nice place. However, these preconceived notions of Barcelona also created extremely high expectations for the 3-day trip. Thankfully, Barcelona lived up to and even surpassed anything that people told me about it.

Although my friend and I already knew a lot about Barcelona, we made absolutely zero plans for the entire weekend in order to maintain some level of spontaneity. After arriving early Thursday morning, we checked into our hotel and immediately started just walking around without looking at any map or anything. We started the day by our hotel on La Rambla, one of the most famous streets in Barcelona, and by the end of the day we had walked around the entire city for what felt like and probably was multiple times.

               La Rambla

Even though we didn’t even really intend to see anything, we ended up seeing La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Plaza Espanya, Plaza de Catalunya, the Columbus Monument, and most of the beach all in one day. Along with all the famous places, we ventured along countless small streets that all had their own unique flair. Following the entire day of exploring Barcelona, I looked at my phone and saw that we had walked a total of 37,000 steps, or 14 miles. Normally, it would take a hiking trip or something similar to get even close to that many steps, but Barcelona had so much to offer that I never even noticed how much walking we were actually doing.

La Sagrada Familia, a Church that has been in construction since 1882
       The Columbus Monument
                             Plaza Espanya

 

Despite not feeling the effects of all the walking during the day on Thursday, Friday morning my friend and I both woke up pretty tired and even sore. Luckily, Friday was the sunniest and warmest day of the weekend, so we decided to have a relaxing day on the beach. It also didn’t hurt that we had already seen a majority of the landmarks, which meant we wouldn’t be losing anything by spending a day not visiting anything. Laying out by the beach wasn’t only much needed after an entire day of walking, but also because it has been cold and cloudy in Switzerland almost every day. It was refreshing to have a day to bask in some sun and not worry about anything at all.

Barceloneta Beach, only a little different from the Swiss mountains

Saturday was the third and final day in Barcelona, and we couldn’t think of anything better to do than to see the whole city, literally. We took a cable car that took us up to the top of Montjuic, a hill that features a view of all of Barcelona and a castle with an interesting history. The rest of our last day was spent shopping and simply taking in the final sights and sounds of Barcelona.

    The view from Montjuic

The notable sights, beaches, and panoramic views were all more than enough to make the trip better than I could’ve expected, but without a doubt my favorite part of Barcelona was the food. To start, our hotel was also located right by La Boqueria, a well-known food market. Instantly when we walked into it for the first time I knew that I was in food paradise. I was surrounded by fresh fruits, every cut of meat, seafood, bakeries, and everything in between. It may not sound that groundbreaking, but it’s a stark contrast from the Swiss diet of bread and cheese. We went there at least once each day, each time trying out new foods and never leaving unsatisfied.

A little snack from the market
Only one of the many fresh fruit stands

The extent of my love for the food in Barcelona doesn’t end in the market, as everything that I had felt worthy of a 5-star review. The first dish we had at a restaurant was Paella, a Spanish staple and something that everyone that has been to Spain talks about. The combination of rice and seafood was worth all the hype and I wished that the plate for two was only for me. On Friday night we decided to switch things up a bit and go to a Latin American restaurant called FOC, and it was the best decision we made the whole weekend. I had a Brazilian steak called Picanha, which came out on a steaming plate and looked like enough meat to feed all of Barcelona. I truly believe that it was one of the best restaurant meals of my entire life, and we had to go back the next night for dinner again. Somewhat reluctantly I switched my order from the Brazilian steak to Argentinian steak, and fortunately it came close to being as good. The final part of the food journey in Barcelona was mainly deciding what flavor of ice cream I wanted or whether I desired beef or chicken inside my empanada.

          The Picanha
Approximately two seconds later the whole Argentinian steak was gone
        Paella for “two”

 

 

Barcelona was one of the best cities I’ve ever been too because it had a great combination of everything. There were intriguing historical landmarks, fun beaches, impressive views, and delicious food all inside one vibrant and dynamic city. Whereas Zurich feels similar pretty much anywhere in the city, Barcelona reminded me more of Chicago because every part of the city had its own particular and compelling characteristics.

Now, it’s my turn to be the person telling others that they need to go to Barcelona.

 

Radek

 

 

Coasting Through to Spring

Coasting Through to Spring

 

     On Thursday, March 29, I hopped on a bus and headed down to the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy. I went on the trip alone using tour company Bus2Alps. The company provides all types of trips for students studying abroad. They boast that they are “Europe’s #1 Student tour operator” and their most popular trips are to the Swiss Alps and Amalfi. Back in January I took the ten hour drive with them to Switzerland and had a great time taking in the beauty of the alps and glacial lakes there. Since then I had explored a number of cold destinations like Poland and Florence and I was looking forward to laying out on a beach under the sun. Back in January, the thought of a trip to the picturesque coast at the end of March sounded like a distant dream. The semester has come and gone so fast, and now Easter weekend is behind me too. The trip to Amalfi was certainly one to remember, though the chilly weather wasn’t ideal for the swimming and tanning I spent the last few months fantasizing about.

     We arrived late Thursday night, with only enough time to get our room keys and go to bed. For my last Bus2Alps trip, I was with my friend Kate. This time, I was on my own. Of course, traveling with a group of 200 other American college kids is not exactly a brave, lonely venture, but the experience of traveling alone is different than traveling with friends. My roommates were all friends studying in Barcelona for the semester. They were halfway through their weekend of drinking and having fun together on their trip. Wherever you travel, odds are there will be times when you want to relax, or take a moment to breathe and take inventory. Sometimes this can be difficult when you don’t know anyone besides the tour guide who emailed you the itinerary weeks ago. If you’re planning to travel alone, even with a tour group, be prepared for some time to yourself, and maybe some situations that are less than ideal. For example, because I had 7 strangers for roommates, I had to take the only bunk bed in the room. Of course, the bottom of said bunk bed was occupied by one of the frat guys – and his girlfriend – both nights. Like I said, less than ideal.

     Moving on, I wasn’t going to let minor discomforts ruin my trip, and neither should you when you travel! Friday morning we left the hostel early and took a boat ride to the nearby island of Capri. Capri is beautiful and the best part was taking a chairlift up to the top of Mt. Solaro, the highest point of the island, for a 360 view of the surrounding blue waters. The colors around Capri are unbelievable when the sun is shining. (See images below) If you like citrus, Amalfi is the place for you. Known for their lemons, nearly every shop offers some sort of treat featuring the fruit. Lemon desserts, chocolate covered orange skins, and, if you can stomach it, limoncello.

     Day two was beach day, but the overcast weather forced me to stay in my jeans and sweatshirt. Thankfully, Positano has tons of shops, cafes, and art galleries tailor made for tourists. It’s easy to spend a whole day walking around looking at the art and ceramics, or sampling gelato. This is definitely a trip meant for summer or late spring. The Bus2Alps itinerary includes private boat tours, cave exploration, and swimming under the sun. We had to skip several of these activities due to the windy weather. If you go before April, there’s a good chance you’ll have to skip the beach or brave some chilly water.

     On Sunday I got to hike Mt. Vesuvius, and tour the ancient ruins of Pompeii. In 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, covering the thriving city of Pompeii in ash and smoke, destroying buildings and burying citizens. Pompeii is famous because so much of it was preserved by the volcano. You can even see plaster casts of people in their last moments, frozen in time by the cooling liquid rock that buried them. That part can be a little depressing but it really is a beautiful place. I walked down the once-bustling avenues and intersections of the city. Pompeii is a lot bigger than I thought. I recommend paying for a guided tour, or at least using an audio guide like on Rick Steves’ travel app so you don’t get turned around.

     I had been most excited to hike to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. I didn’t realize how windy and cold it would be on the way up. I tightened the hood of my windbreaker and kept marching up. The top was cool, but a little underwhelming. I couldn’t actually peer down into a vast pool of lava. It was just a sunken valley of gravel and rock. The volcano is still active today though. I still recommend the hike to any adventurers out there. There are some stunning views of the city and ocean along the way. If it was a sunny and clear day it probably would have been amazing.

     We ended the trip with margherita pizzas in Naples. Best pizza ever. I went to Naples earlier in the semester and had a vegetarian pizza. It was disappointing. If you get the chance to have pizza in this classic Italian city, you have to get classic margherita. Trust me when I tell you you don’t want to ruin it with other toppings. Less is more here.

     By the end of the weekend, I had gotten a little bit of sun, taken a lot of good pictures, and I felt ready to return to Rome. Some of my favorite things were the stray dogs and cats that lounge around the islands, the views from the top of Capri, and the pizza at Pompeii Pizza. I recommend the trip, but it is best taken in the warmer part of the year.  As for the solo aspect of the trip, I’m glad I went by myself. Traveling alone is a great way to test your self-reliance and do some reflecting. Bring a journal on your next solo trip so you can jot down your thoughts throughout and look back on them later.

 

 

 

Views of Capri from the water.

 

One of the beautiful art pieces in free galleries of Positano.

 

Classic Amalfi Coast spot, but a little cloudy

 

Beach Dogs

 

It says “Explore”

 

Statue at Pompeii

 

Wow, this is a real place!

 

Cat Nap

 

It’s good with or without the vodka
Mid Semester Break + District Six Museum Visit

Mid Semester Break + District Six Museum Visit

Greetings friends. Welcome to my fourth blog entry.

Apologies for the lack of posting last week, but I have a good reason – I was in Zimbabwe the past week! Our school had their mid-semester break so myself and thirteen other of the students in my program planned a trip to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls itself was an incredible sight. We visited both the Zimbabwe and Zambia side of the falls and left each absolutely drenched but entirely satisfied and amazed. We also managed to go on a safari that took us through Chobe, Botswana, where we saw elephants, hippos, giraffes, kudus (deer-like antelopes), monkeys, and more! I also went on a helicopter ride over the falls and embarked on a bike tour. It was all around a great trip, and it was nice to get out of Cape Town and see a different African country, as Zimbabwe was completely different from Cape Town. I’m currently in the process of gathering my pictures from the trip but I’ll have photographic evidence next post!

The couple weeks leading up to Zimbabwe, I attended Cape Town’s carnival, hiked to Elephant’s Eye cave, watched the sunset at Signal Hill, and visited District Six museum. I’d like to talk some about our visit to District Six museum, as it was a very interesting place. District Six, located near downtown Cape Town, was one of the largest communities to be forcibly removed by apartheid laws. On February 9, 1966, the government enacted a law declaring the area, then a vibrant mixed community, a white only area. Today, the museum serves as a gathering place for those who used to call the area a home and a memorial for the lives destroyed by the apartheid regime.

We were fortunate enough to get a tour of the museum by our program driver, Mr. P, who spent his early childhood in district six, until apartheid laws forced his family to leave. He spoke passionately about how he was evicted from his home and forced to travel hours to get to school thereafter.

I’m attaching a few pictures here from the museum that illustrate the state of Cape Town during apartheid. This was especially shocking for me to see as this was the first time I’d actually seen what apartheid looked like. I’d obviously heard about it and read about it, but actually seeing the signs separating races made the history of South Africa more real.

A quote displayed in the museum from President Thabo Mbeki: “The forced removal of our people from District Six has come to symbolize everything that was wrong about the system of apartheid and white minority domination. We are renewing ourselves as a district, as a people, and as a nation, giving back to all our people their common heritage without the distinctions of race, color, and gender.”

See you next week. x

North-Central and Nearing Goodbyes

North-Central and Nearing Goodbyes

Have I ever mentioned how much I love Vietnam? Some people and loved ones that read my blog posts probably think I’ve spent much of my semester miserable because I almost always find a way to squeeze into my blogs about being homesick. Yes, I’m homesick, but I also really don’t want to leave. I want to bring all my loved ones to Vietnam, so I can stay here without missing my people back home. This past week we went on our last excursion of the semester to the Northern and Central regions of Vietnam. The regions of Vietnam all have distinct characteristics about them which I heavily learned on this trip, but I will get into that in little bit.

Our first stop was the Central region. We spent just about 24 hours in a central city called Hue exploring some of the more historical parts of our trip. Some highlights were the Imperial Palace, Thien Mu Pagoda, and the Tomb of Emperor Minh Mang. It was a day heavy with information, but information I had no idea about from out ~Eurocentric education~. Afterwards we took a bus ride to a city called Hội An. I’m not going to lie, this was my favorite city on our excursion. Before we got there, we passed through the Hai Van Pass stopping at a colonial military post. It was cooler in temperature and looked like what I thought would be “tropical Colorado”. Hội An itself was definitely a tourist area, but not in a negative light. It kind of felt great to be a tourist. We walked along the river and visited the markets and bargain for souvenirs (no spoilers for my friends and family) and relaxed. Something called Earth Hour was occurring one night we were there where the entire city turned out the lights for, you guessed it, a whole hour. I was in the streets at that time and walked around and it felt like I was in another dimension. People were selling glow sticks, eating dinner lit by candle lights, and lighting candle lanterns to float on the river. The real question is why doesn’t America institute this??? I hope to return to Vietnam one day with my loved ones and Hội An is definitely a stop I want to take again.


Our last stop was Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. I know majority of the people reading this don’t know what Saigon looks like, but Hanoi is Saigon with less sidewalk, more condensed streets, and more foreigners. In Saigon I feel like we are the only foreigners living in district ten which is great for immersing us into the culture and not just living along side other travelers in districts like one and two. We stayed in the Old Quarter where a lot of tourists congregate so it was bizarre to hear English all around us and to have conversations with Australian and British people in English rather than my sad attempts at Vietnamese with local people. We had a lot of free time in Hanoi, but we visited a few historical sites as well. First, we waited in a really, really, reallllly long line to see the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh. Colloquially known as Uncle Ho, he is the single most important historical figure in Vietnam. His body is preserved and kept in a mausoleum that is open to the public, so we waited in the longest line I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to Space Mountain at Disney, so this was the real deal). It was very interesting as we waited for a very long time to walk through the actual mausoleum in about 30 seconds. It was interesting to see just how devoted Vietnamese people are to Uncle Ho and to get to be a part of that experience. We also got to see a water puppet show which is something very common usually in northern Vietnam. They have roots going back many decades and it was amazing to look at although I had no idea what was going on (curse the language barrier). We finally hit Ha Long Bay as our last trip before the airport. We took a boat out to the bay and got to kayak and visit a cave before we came back to Saigon.

   
Coming back to the differences in the regions in Vietnam, there are quite a few. Norther accents are wild. The tones of the Vietnamese language are completely different, and I had quite the adventure ordering coffee and learned there is a completely different word for coffee with ice and milk instead of what I know and have memorized from the south. The food is also spicier. No lemon, which is by the way a small green lemon that looks like a lime but is a lemon, with my pho so I had some trouble in that area too (I cried while eating super spicy curry in Thailand). It was also quite cooler and dare I say I was chilly in 70 Fahrenheit degree weather.
I am now back in Saigon preparing for the amount of school work that is about to slam into me and locking myself away in coffee shops to work. I went out to dinner with my roommate and a few Vietnamese friends as the rest of our group is still up North as we did not optionally extend our trip for an individual trip and came back to Saigon. It is going to be hard to say goodbye as we have less than a month left, and it is going to be quite bittersweet.