The GoGlobal Blog

Month: January 2013

Mozzarella, Waffles and French Fries

Mozzarella, Waffles and French Fries

It is a Thursday night and I am currently sitting in JFRC’s IC finishing up some homework. Not hitting up Rome tonight, but saving that for this weekend!

Two weeks ago I went on the orientation trip to Salerno and it was beautiful! We went the region of Campina, and stayed in the town of Salerno. It is a picture perfect coastal town. We had so much planned into the trip, but my favorite parts were drinking wine at the bottom of Mount Vesuvius, and visiting a buffalo mozzarella farm. I can actually say that I had wine at the bottom of the Mount Vesuvius, and I have the pictures to prove it. Then the buffalo mozzarella farm was a personal favorite because I’m from Buffalo, New York, so I went a little crazy with the fact that a Buffalonian was hanging out with some buffalos.

After that weekend I experienced my first planned weekend trip! A group of us from JFRC all went to Brussels, Belgium for the weekend. The center city was all cobble stone street, small alleys that you can walk down, and a large medieval style square called Grand Place. It was like a small town in a large city. The first thing I did in Brussels was eat a Belgian Waffle, and I licked that plate clean. I also had amazing french fries with mayo, disgusting I know but when in Europe! Then I knew Brussels is known for there seafood and a group of us found this stand up place near Saint Catherine’s Cathedral. I can honestly say that it was the best seafood of my life.

Thus far my trips outside of Rome have been incredible experiences filled with unforgettable memories.

Next time I will talk about my adventure in Rome and my trip to Paris!!

Until then…


First Impressions

First Impressions

¡Hola! Finalmente estoy en Granada.

First of all, Spain is beautiful. When we first landed in Madrid, we got to see this beautiful sunrise made up of layers of orange and gold and yellow with the silhouettes of the mountains in front of it. From Madrid we went to Málaga, which is a coastal town with a lot of palm trees. We didn’t see a whole lot of it because we were all basically vegetables from jet lag and travel, but we did get to go to el centro and see a really beautiful cathedral and a building from when Málaga was a port for this region.

From Málaga we drove to Granada. It’s probably one of the only hour and a half road trips in the world where you see a beach at the beginning and snow-capped mountains at the end. Granada. Is. Beautiful. It’s in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and almost every home and building has views of the mountains and the Alhambra. Granada is a medieval city, so many of the buildings are extremely old, and much of the city retains a lot of its history from when it was home to los arabes, los judios, y los católicos. A lot of the buildings are white with red tile roofs, and it actually looks like paradise. Much of the city was constructed before cars, so the streets are very narrow and change direction a lot. The streets also don’t have prominent signs, and nothing’s on a grid, so it’s somewhat difficult to navigate. I do not envy the drivers around here at all.

There are a few things I’ve noticed so far. Spaniards are all about second breakfast: you eat a small breakfast, then halfway through the morning everyone has another cup of coffee and a snack. Siesta is also serious business. Everything shuts down and everyone goes home to eat lunch and take a rest. Right now it’s siesta time, and it’s practically silent outside. Lunch is the biggest meal here, and it’s very important that everyone gets to eat with their families (not unlike dinner in the States). Dinner is a lot more casual, and people often go out for drinks and tapas for the evening meal. Vegetarians are uncommon here, and if you say that you want something vegetarian, it usually ends up including ham. However, my host mom is an excellent vegetarian cook, which works out well because my roommate and I are both vegetarians.

Spaniards have a very odd relationship with their floor. You can’t put things like bags on the floor because it’s bad luck, and you can’t put clothes on the floor because the floor is considered to be dirty. No one goes barefoot in the house for the same reason, but people clean their floors all the time. It’s very rude if you walk around without slippers or shoes on in the house, but my roommate and I keep forgetting that. Whoops.

Let’s hope I remember to wear my slippers and be very clear about not wanting ham on anything I eat. ¡Hasta luego!

Making myself at home

Making myself at home

This room is nicer than mine back in the states…
Besides the violent wind, it was perfect.
The host family’s dog
Lovin’ those palm trees and walk ways
Some homes on the way to the Castle
The view from my classroom windows everyday

Well, I have officially been in Alicante for two whole weeks, and they have been incredible! The city is absolutely beautiful, with warm colored buildings, palm trees everywhere, and an amazing beach that looks like a picture out of a vacation pamphlet. I was instantly in love with the tropical atmosphere of the city. I found it rather funny though that the people walking the streets of Alicante are bundled up in large winter jackets and boots, even though it is about 65 degrees. My director Luis said that 65 degrees is cold for the people here, which is a great indication of how warm the spring and summer will be :D. I will have to learn some self-control and discipline when it comes to doing my homework instead of going to the beach every day.

I met my host family the first day I arrived, which was rather nerve wrecking at first. All of the USAC students were waiting in a large group in the main city plaza, our names being called one by one to be matched with our host family. It was so exciting to hear my name called and see my host family walk over to me, greeting me with several “Holas!” and  kisses on the cheek The kiss greetings will definitely take me some time to get used to that. My host family consists of Ana, the middle aged mother, Olga, the 28 year old daughter, and Idoya, the 23 year old daughter who goes to the same University as me.  Oh and of course, their miniature labra-doodle named Bisbi. From the beginning of our first interaction, I could tell they did not know much English, so I had to brush up on my Spanish skills, and fast. We returned to their home, and I was shown my room. The room is wonderful and cozy, with a large bed, roomy closet, and even a picture of Rome in one of the corners- made me a little nostalgic, but also comforted me. I quickly unpacked and joined them for the late afternoon dinner, called “la comida.” They made a delicious welcome dish of paella, which is rice mixed with various vegetables and meats and seafood. It was delicious and easy to clean my entire plate. The conversation was fun and light, them asking me various questions about myself and America, and me trying my hardest to remember every vocab list I had to memorize during high school Spanish classes. The jet lag kicked in right after lunch, and I spent the rest of the day, and night, sleeping.

The next day the USAC group met for a walking tour of the city. We were shown the main plazas, the town hall, the beach, the popular restaurants and bar areas, and of course, the shopping strip. Alicante is significantly smaller than Chicago, with the buildings less than ten stories tall (except some hotels), and we were able to see most of the central area in just a couple of hours. Surprisingly, I don’t think I will get bored here, and my desire to travel every weekend is not nearly as strong as it was while I was in Rome- probably has something to do with the beach and ridiculously wonderful weather.

Later that day we all climbed up to the Santa Barbara, which is situated on top of a huge hill in the middle of Alicante. It took about half an hour and a lot of groaning to get to the top, but the scene was worth it. We could see all of Alicante from the top, as well as the sea and the mountains that surround the city and county side. It was one of the most beautiful scenes ever, and we all “ooed” and “awed” at the scene for almost on hour on top of that Castle. I plan to go up there numerous times again to take in the scene, but definitely taking the elevator next time.

The following day we were taken to the Universidad de Alicante, where I am taking my classes. The campus used to be an old army base in the 50s, but it has since been renovated and modernized, with clean white buildings and palm trees, decorative fountains, and orange trees everywhere.  I am taking several Spanish classes to improve my speaking and grammar skills, as well as some culture and gender studies classes. The teachers are so sweet and easy to understand.\, and the homework is light, which allows me to do a lot of things after class. There is a gym nearby my hose that I plan on joining, as well as a school intramural soccer team, which will help me stay in shape, especially considering the Spaniards eat five meals a day that consist of a lot of carbs… yet somehow they are still super skinny… still don’t understand  that one. I love it all so far, except the long bus ride to and from school and having to wake up at 7 am for school, but it’s all worth it. Everyone in my classes and program are very sweet and fun, and these first two weeks have been a blast. I am really excited to be living here for the next five months!  I really need to update more often so these entries aren’t so long… Hahaha.

Recap: Reunion & Revelation

Recap: Reunion & Revelation

From the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Building, tallest in HCMC

Over a week since that first plate of rice at 3 AM  half-way across the world from Chicago, there have been far too many stories and topics to address in a single post. For the continued duration of this blog, I will attempt to address posts by specific topics rather than try to create a chronological narrative of my adventure in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City is a fascinating city; a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells that are both familiar and bizarre. Its people continue to surprise me everyday with their hard work, determination, and character. I feel that my experiences for these next 4 months will be undoubtedly shaped by my interactions with the Vietnamese. However, ever present in my thoughts will be the Vietnam–both the idealized and the actual–that my parents raised me by. I only hope that these juxtaposition of these two dynamics will enrich my study of Vietnam.

However, in my first few days living in district 1 of HCMC, I’ve been able to explore a great deal and meet a lot of remarkable individuals. Foremost, all of the Vietnamese roommates that we Americans have been paired with are incredible. They are each intelligent and talented in their own ways. Some of them have worked for the Argentine Consulate, others have traveled far from home to seek higher education, one teaches English 7 days a week to foreigners, and there is still more to learn about each of them. My roommate, An, has essentially become an adopted little brother to me. We have similar majors, and family stories and its just been wonderful to explore this city with him as a guide. Sometimes we know we’re going (because of his leading), and other times we end up discovering new diamonds hidden in the rough.

HCMC itself is host to a vibrant culture and city life that strikes a balance between the sleepy-town of my parent’s past and the bustle of a metropolis like Chicago. Many businesses are still managed by family, and they often close near dinner time, leaving the nightlife to commercial ventures and specific districts. By nighttime, many retire and if you are a night owl you’ll have to venture out to districts such as Pham Ngu Lao (Backpacker’s District) which cater to a foreign crowd used to a nightlife that wanes when the sun rises. Even though I’ve only extensively been through District 1, I feel like I haven’t seen nearly half of it yet and there’s still 20 other districts to visit!

To avoid rambling on in a single post, here are some pictures of my first week in Vietnam. With each picture is a story that will be expanded upon later.

Collection of Snake and Scorpion "wines" at Ben Thanh Market

A HipHop (B-boy) dancer landing a freeze during the Converse Street Festival

Vendors selling goods in the streets during "Night Market" near Ben Thanh Market

Reuniting with some of my uncles

One week, one day, one month? Who knows on Vietnam time, either way it’s a blast!

One week, one day, one month? Who knows on Vietnam time, either way it’s a blast!

It has been a week and all I can say is WOW. Vietnam is exactly what they say, a totally unique study abroad experience. Everything is dramatically different than life back in Chicago. From the millions of motorbikes crowding the streets to being able to barter for anything, even groceries and on to buying a decent DVD copy of Skyfall for 10,000vnd. Loyola University Chicago’s Vietnam Center is a truly immersive study abroad experience. Vietnam has everything from living with an awesome Vietnamese roommate to getting a ride on some random guy’s motorbike. Just walking down the street is like a sensory explosion from the sights and smells. Cell phone stores line the streets next to family run bakeries and restaurants. This program is everything a student who wants to study abroad somewhere unique wants.

Globalization is very prevalent here, Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese for over a thousand years, then the French colonized it and the Americans were here in the sixties and even more. Even though it is not a truly developed country, the effects of globalization can be seen everywhere. Here I am, typing this up on a computer that was designed by an American company, then built in China. Then, I am sipping on some of the freshest orange juice I have ever tasted while savoring some ice cream from New Zealand and listening to music from the United Kingdom. I would say the orange juice rivals Spain’s.

Now I bet you are wondering what I have been up to other than class and homework. I have been exploring Saigon a lot by foot, walking around is great because you get to capture every sight as it happens. I’ve visited the backpacker’s district and it was pretty crazy! I visited a museum yesterday, and it totally changed my perspective on the Vietnam War.

The War Remnants Museum here in Ho Chi Minh City, I honestly have never been so impacted by a museum. At first you get there an are amazed by the American jets, helicopters and tanks, but then you get inside and read the stories and see the pictures of the monstrosities that occurred during the Vietnam War. Now I know that this museum is very propagandaish towards the Vietnamese, they did ‘win’ the war so they can tell any story they want, but it truly made me feel a wide range of emotions while walking through the exhibits. They had a section on American war crimes of aggression, I always knew a lot of bad stuff happened during the war, but they had pictures of everything. There was a picture of American G.I.s waterboarding a Vietnamese, another where someone was being unruly while being transported in a helicopter and they threw him out, another of a G.I. holding up a man ripped apart by a grenade launcher. There was a section though in that exhibit that hit me the hardest, it was pictures that were taken by journalists. One that sticks out the most in my mind; of an elderly man who was so weak he couldn’t walk who looked like he was begging, his face showed one of pure terror. The photographer noted that he was ushered away after clicking the shutter and a minute later heard two shots. In another exhibit, it displayed the dramatic effects of Agent Orange, a defoliate agent used by American troops to clear the jungle canopy. Agent Orange devastated the country, from destroying land and farming livelihoods to birth defects seen by pictures in the museum as late as 2008. I do not want to share too much of the museum though, because I feel that it is a must go place to anyone coming to Vietnam, even if you come with a main purpose of spending the 15,000vnd to get in and experience it. After some reflection, the propaganda side of the museum comes out; with portraying Americans as evil and the Vietnamese as peace loving farmers, but the facts are still there. I highly recommend everyone to visit the museum.

Well, on a lighter note, living with a Vietnamese roommate is one of the greatest things about Loyola’s Vietnam Program! My roommate, Trung, is an amazing guy. I feel like I got really lucky, especially since we both love to sleep in past the time the cleaning lady comes in to clean on weekends. Which is one of the most vivid differences between America and Vietnam to me. When staying at a hotel, at least the guest house, when it is time for the cleaning lady to come clean your room, even if you are still sleeping, she will come in and clean the bathroom and sweep/mop the floor. At first this really shocked me!

Vietnam truly is an amazing place, and I cannot wait to explore more of it! With Tet coming up, I will have a break to walk around Saigon with less traffic and people about. I cannot wait to see and experience as much of it as I can. I hope everyone had a great weekend!


Gatitos (Kittens) and New Friends!

Gatitos (Kittens) and New Friends!

So about a week ago I got the chance to do- or be, rather- something I’d never been before: a cat owner.

What you first need to know is that Santiago is a city full of abandoned/stray dogs and cats (primarily dogs). The cause of this (or perhaps this is more of an effect rather than a cause) is that there’s a lot less love for them [cats and dogs] than in the states. Also a lot less shelters!

In any case, I was walking my friend to the metro station near my apartment when we saw two kids (well, 18 and 19) on the corner. The guy had a box in his arms and when we came closer we saw two adorable, mewling, ridiculously tiny kittens! (pic) The guy had found them (and 3 others that they had already found homes for) in the park in the shade of a rock formation, and were trying to give them away. I ran home (quite literally, I was out of breath when I got there) and burst in the door to ask my mother if I could have a cat.

Unfortunately, my wonderful mother’s one flaw is that she hates cats and dogs. So I ran back to the corner [where my friend was waiting as well] but just can’t bring myself to leave these two teens and these sad, sad kittens.

So I stayed with them for two hours, talking and trying to see if any of the passer-by would be willing to give a home to one of the sweet kittens. They also told me that the refugios, or shelters, in Santiago only kept cats for a week to a month before euthanizing them, which is why they were trying so hard to find them homes.

So I called everyone and their brother [in Chile] to see if they would be able to take in a cat. Finally I called one of my friends from another program also attending UAH (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, the Jesuit University that I attend here in Santiago) who lives in an apartment rather than with a family. The conversation started with something like…

Me: Oh hey Nealy! So, random, but… do you like cats by any chance?

I was so lucky that the answer was yes. And that Nealy and Rachel [the girl Nealy rooms with who I’m also friends with] were wonderfully accepting of housing two kittens each under a month old.

Gatitos with Rachel! That first night.

We had to feed them special food and buy special flea remover meds, and even bathe them in a certain way so as to teach them how to bathe themselves (like their mother would have done). We basically went in blind, using google as our guide dog/walking stick, and acted like ridiculously obnoxious mothers of newborns, cooing every time they stumbled (newborn cats and drunks are close cousins in matters relating to walking), ate, cleaned themselves, and even when they pooped (TMI, I know. Deal with it).

The girls’ program director was even happy to have them! Unfortunately, the apartment management didn’t feel the same way, and so after a week with our lovely kittens, I had to start looking for new homes for them.

Mijo(what I called the male kitty, short for ‘mi hijo’/’my son’) was adopted within a day of my posting the ad by a wonderful Chilean, who brought me blueberries from his family’s farm as thanks for finding him a kitten!

The last night- Mijo spent it at my apartment and preferred my laundry basket to the bed I’d painstakingly made for him. The stinker.

Anyway, that was just one more wonderful Chilean experience that gave me not only my two kitties for a bit but also introduced me to two new great people in this great city.

Hasta Luego, Dela

PS: Bonus picture of Mija!

Mija in Derp Face
New Words or ‘Nuevas Palabras’

New Words or ‘Nuevas Palabras’

You may have heard the phrase “chulo!’ before; in some countries it refers to someone being attractive, in others it’s just ‘cool’. The second meaning is what I understood it to be when I came to Chile. Luckily, my Chilean mother stopped me the first time I said it in front of her (although it took a ‘chilena’, a chilean girl, to fully explain how the term is perceived here) and prevented any future faux pas; in Chile, ‘chulo’ is the equivalent of something trashy.

The substitute word that Chileans have given me to use is the term ‘Bacán’.

This is just one of the many new words that I’ve learned since coming to Santiago. It means ‘cool’, and is a word [apparently] only used in Chile.

(Offbeat information: The term actually comes from the American term ‘Rock on!” – they sound very similar when said quickly and heard by someone who doesn’t speak both languages fluently.)

This is just one example of the ‘chileanisms’ or ‘modismos’ (a word that means ‘idioms’ but also used for ‘slang’) that are used so often here, and one small example of something I hadn’t even though about encountering.

Some others that I particularly like:

  1. Pellolo, which is both a bug that’s attracted to light and also a boyfriend (or pellola for girlfriend). The term ‘novio’ and ‘novia’ here usually refer to fiancé and fiancées
  2. The verb ‘cachar’, meaning ‘to catch’ is used as ‘to understand’ in slang terms. ‘Caches?’ (you catch?) is the equivalent of ‘do you get me/it?”

Additionally, the ‘word’ ‘po’ is added on to the end of a lot of things as a kind of emphasizer (words from the mouth of a chileno). The add-on is actually a shortened form of the Castillian/Spanish term ‘pues’, which means ‘well’, ‘as’, or ‘so’. As such, it’s very common to hear ‘sípo’, ‘nopo’, or even ‘yapo’.

Although these terms aren’t exactly academic and aren’t words that will aid me tremendously in furthering my educational Spanish/Castillian, they are the things that I love learning because it’s part of the Chilean lifestyle- part of the culture. Knowing these things is [to me] a sign that I’m starting to integrate, starting to [partially] become a more like the most important part of Chile- its people.

Hasta luego,


Una Nueva Vida

Una Nueva Vida

It’s been exactly two weeks since I left for Santiago.  In the short amount of time I’ve been here, I already feel like a Chilean.  Their lifestyle fits me perfectly.  They’re casual, laid back and like to have fun.  Above all, they know how to live in the moment.

Chileans show a lot of affection towards one another.  The first time someone went towards me for a kiss on the cheek, it definitely threw me off.  However, it’s how people greet each other here as well as to say goodbye.  After two weeks, I’ve come to like this custom.  It’s more personal and meaningful than shaking hands.

I’ll admit, learning a new language is hard.  Back in Chicago, I volunteer as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.  This is how my students must feel!  It’s frustrating not being able to express myself fully. However, this is one reason I came here: to learn Spanish!  Mi mamá only speaks Spanish.  At times it’s difficult to communicate, but it’s good practice for me!  Mis hermanos know some English, so we help each other learn the other language.  My classes are difícil, but I can already tell I’m learning so much!

Last weekend, I went to the coast to see one of the houses of Pablo Neruda, a famous literary icon from Chile.  His home was unreal.  Everything was so beautiful!  Afterwards, I ate some of the most delicious seafood of my life and explored the coast.  I also happened to stumble upon the largest pool in the world!

Mi hermano, Ignacio (aka Nacho), has a friend named Nicolás who happens to have a beautiful house!  My friends and I compare it to a hobbit hole in the movie The Hobbit.  His front door looks just like Bilbo’s!  There’s a pool in the backyard and it feels like a private resort, especially with the palm trees.  The best part though is hanging out with the Chileans. 🙂

The nightlife here is definitely in full swing!  It’s great to be able to dance to my favorite music in Spanish, such as Daddy Yankee’s song ‘Limbo’ which is currently number one in Chile.  Staying out late to dance is normal for Chileans.

People here don’t say adiós, they say ciao.  So… ¡Ciao mis amigos!

My beautiful university!

La Gringa*

La Gringa*

I’m in love with Chile already.

I flew from Chicago, Illinois, to Dallas, Texas, and then on to Santiago, Chile.  On my first flight, I pulled out a book on Chile and Easter Island.  A woman sitting next to me noticed this and asked if I was traveling to Chile.  (She had traveled there before.)  Our conversation led to her giving me an inspirational pep talk.  Her last words of encouragement were “Conquer the world!”  I took our meeting as a good omen.  On my second flight, I became even more excited because I was hearing conversations in Spanish all around me.  And then the words “Bienvenido a Chile!” were said and they couldn’t have sounded more beautiful.

Everyone in Chile is so friendly.  I couldn’t find mi mamá at the airport right away, so a man offered to help me search for her.  When we found her, she came up to me and gave me a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.  We were both so excited to meet each other.  After our initial meeting, she and I had coffee together.  Anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with coffee, so I knew that we were a good match.

I absolutely love my new family.  First is mi mamá.  Her name is Orietta.   Next are mis hermanos.  Their names are Antonio, Felix and Ignacio.  I love having older brothers.  I am so grateful to belong to such a wonderful family.

The first night I was here, Chile was playing Bolivia in fútbol.  Mis hermanos told me that it’s tradition to throw un asado before a game, which is the equivalent to a BBQ in the United States.  So that’s exactly what we did.  I got to meet many friends and learn a thing or two about fútbol.  I also got to try Pisco for the first time!  Pisco is a famous beverage in Chile and Peru.  I was told that Chile and Peru argue about which country has the right to claim Pisco as their own.  (It’s Chile, obviously.)

Everyone here is happy to help me with my Spanish.  That is one thing that I really need to work on — being able to speak fluently.  Tomorrow I start my Spanish Intensive Class with the other gringos. I’m excited to make improvements!

*Originally written on January 13, 2013

This is my backyard where we had the asado!

La Despedida*

La Despedida*

Packing up and leaving Chicago has been a lot harder than I expected.  To be honest, I’ve had a few good cries along the way.  I’m going to miss the city I’ve grown to love and call home — especially the people who have made it all worthwhile.  But alas, I had to take this opportunity.  A quote from Mark Twain comes to mind and this sort of mindset influenced my decision to study abroad.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

Many people wonder why I chose to study abroad in Santiago, Chile, of all places.  I did so for many reasons, some of which include:

  • I wanted to study in a Spanish-speaking country to improve my fluency in the Spanish language.
  • Loyola University Chicago has an affiliate program with Universidad Alberto Hurtado, which also provides a Jesuit education — something I have grown to appreciate.
  • I have the opportunity to live with a host family, allowing myself to become better immersed in the local culture versus if I were to live with other Americans.
  • Both Santiago and Chile are extremely beautiful and include a wide range of geographical landscapes.

As I embark on my journey, I face a mixture of emotions.  I’m excited, nervous, and scared; but I’m more excited than anything.  I want to experience all that is Chilean.  I’m anxious to be on my way, for I have a long trip ahead of me: 12 hours and 15 minutes of travel time, including a layover in Dallas, Texas.

¡Adiós amigos! Abrazos y besos.

*Originally written on January 10, 2013