The GoGlobal Blog

Month: August 2013

Apparently in Africa

Apparently in Africa

So here’s the thing. I’m in Uganda right now. This might sound a little strange, but that simple realization hadn’t hit me until I moved into my homestay family’s house last night. This past week has been absolute madness. Supposedly, it was our orientation week, but everything is so new, confusing, and exciting that I can’t really remember anything from our ten million sessions about how to be culturally appropriate among the Acholi people. Here are a few things I do remember: Don’t let anyone see your underwear (whether you’re wearing it or not), never say you’re going to the bathroom (make up an excuse like taking a phone call or checking the tires if you’re in the car), do not smell your food before tasting it (I forgot about this one until I sniffed my g-nut porridge last night and got unrequited laughs from my homestay siblings), and guys can hold hands in public (If you’re thinking “wait, I thought Uganda was super homophobic!”. I know, but apparently it’s not a gay thing, it’s a bro thing.)
For those of you who aren’t up to date with your East African ethnic groups, the Acholi are an ethnic group that is mainly spread over Northern Africa and South Sudan. There has been Acholi migration elsewhere, but Gulu (where I’m apparently living now) is the center of activity in Acholiland. The Acholi also have a language; surprisingly enough, it is called Acholi. We will be taking Acholi classes this semester, and everyone keeps saying we’ll pick it up fast; I’m not so sure. Some of the sounds in the language seem impossible to say. The other day, we were practicing the sound “ng” which is very nasal and kind of sounds like Chewbacca having a bad day, and I thought the people in the next compound over must have thought we had gone mad. That’s right, I said compound. We take classes on a compound, outside, in the shade of giant fruit trees, in Africa, where I am. There’s also a rooster that interrupts our lectures with COCKADOODLEDO every five minutes. We’re trying to find the Acholi word for annoying so we can give our dear friend a name.
My study abroad group is comprised of six girls and myself. At first I was a little unsure of what that would be like, but I’m warming up to it pretty fast. First of all, they all seem like great people so far. This week has been very much like the first week of freshman year, where everyone talks about themselves a lot and tries way too hard to seem cool (Myself very much included). But still, I think it takes a special kind of person to study abroad here in Gulu, and want to learn about subjects that are as difficult as the LRA conflict and Rwandan genocide. (That’s right, I just called myself special. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want). The second reason why I am coming to terms with being the only guy on the trip is the attention it has been getting me. I was at a bar with all the girls the other day and a guy came up to me and said “Hey man! You’re like P Diddy surrounded with all the ladies! Get that dirt off your shoulder, yeah?!”. I think he got his Diddys and his Jay Zs mixed up, but the point got across. Another guy on the street was a bit more forward about it and yelled “Hey mzungu, why so many ladies?” when I responded that I was just very lucky, he asked if I could leave one with him. I said maybe later, which made all the Boda-Boda drivers on the corner laugh, but not the girls on the trip. I apologized partly because I felt bad, and partly because I am outnumbered six to one.
Boda-Bodas by the way, are motorcycle taxis. When people told me about Boda-Bodas before I came here, I pictured Tuk Tuks in Kenya or India, where the motorcycle is adapted to seat two in the back and has some sort of structure; Not up in here. Boda Bodas here are just guys who own motorcycles, and put you on the back where you hang on for dear life. I mean dear life: hospitals in Gulu have entire wards dedicated specifically to Boda accidents. Naturally we are not allowed to get on them, which pretty much limits our transport options to walking. Walking in Gulu is also an adventure. The main streets are paved, and have potholes scattered about. Every other road is a pothole, and has pavement scattered about. It doesn’t help that it’s the rainy season, which makes everything muddy, and that people are completely misinformed about driving, which causes them to drive on the left, and causes me to be not-so-pleasantly surprised when I look the wrong way before crossing a street and then get way too close to an incoming Boda.
Every day is an adventure is here; whether it is eating chicken that looks like pork and tastes like peanuts, or going to the bathroom in a pit-toilet letrine (I’ll post a picture of one once I figure out how to use them), or even just talking to people on the street. Speaking of which, I have never been in a place where people are so nice and willing to talk and help. I think I will start referring to Gulu as the Anti-New York. The other day, we had an assignment which consisted of walking around Gulu and getting information about certain things. Two girls and I asked a man on a bench if he could point us in the direction of the bus park. He proceeded to grab his crutches (which we hadn’t seen) and hobble himself for four blocks just to show us in the right direction. You’ve probably heard of “Minnesota Nice”, right? Well Gulu’s got them beat by a landslide. Your move Minneapolis.
Writing this blog is extremely difficult, because I want to share everything that I’ve seen, but can’t possibly begin. Also, Gulu is right outside the window, and I have a lot to see. My time with you has meant a lot, dear reader, but Uganda is calling. Really, it’s not you, it’s me. In all seriousness, It has only been a week and I’ve already learned, experienced, and seen way more than I would in a regular year. The gist of it is this: Uganda is amazing, I am having a great time, this trip is everything I hoped for and more, and I will be updating this blog soon.

The Journey

The Journey

Because of the difficulty of accessing internet and the traveling I still have to do, I do not know when this post will be uploaded. However, it was written on Sunday, August 25th 2012. The day I arrived in Uganda.

Air travel has never been a problem for me; I grew up flying back and forth between Mexico and the US, which made me very used to airports, airplanes, and the like. The breathtaking view of factories and smog that you can see landing in both Newark Liberty Airport and the Aereopuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de Mexico make me feel right at home every time. Still, I have to admit that I felt way in over my head going from Mexico City to Uganda. I took four flights, across three days, on three different airlines, with a twelve hour layover in between on my way to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
I’m happy to say that everything went well, except for a lost suitcase that I hope will turn up soon. In fact, I must have been wearing my lucky underwear and not realized it, because my trip ventured from one happy coincidence to another. First of all, I originally had to fly through Cairo on my way here. After watching the news for a couple of minutes last week, I thought that might not be my best option. I called the airline ready to fight until the end to change my flight at the cheapest rate possible. Instead it took all of two minutes, cost me absolutely nothing, and I even had a pleasant conversation with the agent on the phone. Happy coincidence number one.
Then, the day of my flight, I decided to take an earlier bus to Mexico City just in case I hit the insufferable traffic that the city is famous for. I didn’t. At first I was a little annoyed that I had to wait three hours at the airport before my flight. Then I realized that the terminal was empty and heard from my parents that all accesses to the airport had been seized by protestors from Mexico’s teachers union. Hundreds of people missed their flights, and they were even threatening to shut down the airport entirely for the day. I slipped in about twenty minutes before that all started and made it perfectly to my flight. Happy coincidence number two. When I talked to my dad on the phone, he joked that peace and conflict studies, which I will be studying here in Uganda, are going to come in handy, given the revolution I dodged in Cairo and the never-ending strikes and protests I skipped in Mexico City.
Later on, when I boarded my second flight from Houston to Istanbul, my good luck kept on coming. I made my way to the very back of the enormous Boeing 777 and looked for my seat in what seemed like row 768. Right next to my aisle seat was every honest traveler’s worst nightmare: a very small, energetic child. I reluctantly started to take my seat when the child’s father said: “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” He explained that he had one seat in business class and another back in economy for his son, and said that he would trade me his business class seat for mine way back by the bathrooms. I thanked him profusely, snatched the ticket stub from his hand before he could change his mind and bulldozed through the huddled masses walking to the back of the plane. From there, I had 12 hours of free champagne, a three course dinner and enough legroom for Shaquille O’Neal. By far, the happiest coincidence of all.
Everything was pretty normal after that. I jumped on a plane from Istanbul to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where I had to wait twelve hours. I had planned on walking around the city, but quickly changed my mind when I realized that I landed at midnight and that apparently I speak zero Amharic. Instead I slept at the airport, woke up and left for Entebbe. I landed in Entebbe, which is a city about 45 minutes away from Uganda’s capital Kampala, at around 1 pm today. Like I said at the beginning, one of my bags was lost, but I was so desperately excited to leave the airport and see the city that I didn’t care. I reported everything in it, was told that it should arrive later today or tomorrow, and bolted.
Outside, the driver who picked me up, Joseph, laughed at my excitement and at the fact that I got in on the drivers side of the car. Who knew Ugandans drive on the left? I have only been here for a few hours, but so far I am loving it. Kampala looks enormous when you are landing, and the green landscape is never ending. On my way to the hotel where I will be staying until I leave for Gulu with the group, we passed Lake Victoria, the world’s largest saltwater lake, and the presidential residence (not as big as the lake, but also pretty huge). I apologize if this first post dragged on a bit, but the truth is I am the first of my group to arrive and had a long time to write.

Transitions: going from Hi, to hola to ciao

Transitions: going from Hi, to hola to ciao

Hello everyone! or better yet, Ciao Tutti (!) I’m Esther and I’ll be keeping you updated on all things Roma during this Fall 2013 semester. I will also be writing a regular column on the Loyola Phoenix so check it out!

As I said on my bio, I’m a journalism student at Loyola with a particular interest in cultural anthropology and international studies. Translation: I LOVE observing, talking to, and writing about people, culture and city life. As a dear professor of mine once said, I get my best stories from taxi drivers, people at the bus, and street vendors, and I really hope you find them as exciting as I do! (they are really cool people and always have the coolest stories to tell, you’d be surprised).

So let’s get down to business and tell you a little more about my background.

I was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela, a coastal city in the north west of the country–or, as I usually describe it, the place next to the lake where most of Venezuelan oil is. I moved to the US in 2011 and since then have been trying to keep my tropical blood warm in the cold Chicago weather. I love it though!

Having been fortunate enough to travel around  from an early age, I caught the traveling bug a while ago. As my parents like to say, you need to see the world and its different cultures, peoples and places, to understand your place in the global society. In other words, the most you see, the most you learn, the most you know and become to respect other people (and who doesn’t like to travel to cool places anyway).

Bottom line, I like moving around, explore and get to know new places, so it was about time to leave Chicago for a while and experience a new culture here in Italy. I’ve been in Europe for three weeks now (first with my family and now at the JFRC), and have had a blast walking around and getting lost in the cities I’ve visited–from taking a gondola ride around Venice to almost falling off the Swiss Alps inside a tour bus on my way to Furka Pass (I’m not even kidding). It has been quite an adventure!

Well, that’s enough about me. I hope to be blogging soon with more details of my time here. Ci vediamo dopo amici! (See you later guys!).





Settling in, Culture Shock, and Roma 101

Settling in, Culture Shock, and Roma 101

Hi there! Thanks for reading my blog! I wanted to give you a brief introduction about myself as I start the year in Rome.

I’m a junior political science major from the western suburbs of Chicago and I want to go to law school after undergrad studies (maybe I’ll wind up at Loyola!). Back on the Lakeshore campus I was involved with student government and between my freshman and sophomore year I co-authored a book with a friend regarding the cost of education at Loyola.

I decided to go to Rome for several reasons, primarily because both my parents went to the JFRC when they were in college. Many of my aunts and uncles have also been to the JFRC and they highly recommended it. Prior to coming here I had never been outside the contiguous 48 States and the JFRC offered a great opportunity to expand my horizons. I decided to go abroad for the year because… well, why not? It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Enough about me. I’m sure you’re curious about my first impressions of Europe and Rome!

I arrived in Europe/Rome yesterday, the 28th of August. I flew on the group flight with about 70-80 other JFRC students. The flight offered a chance to meet some of the other students I’ll be studying with for the semester. It also made the flights easier because I wasn’t going it alone and it helped me to realize that there are a lot of other students who are in the exact same boat I am.

We first flew from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, where we had a three and a half hour layover. We couldn’t leave the airport, of course, but we got to experience a small taste (pun intended) of German culture when we found an airport bar and drank some German beer. I enjoyed myself and met some new people whom I didn’t sit by on my flight.

Our flight from Frankfurt to Rome, at about 2 hours long, was much shorter than our transatlantic flight. I found it difficult to sleep on the first flight but eventually my fatigue caught up with me and I slept for the entire second flight. My brief nap paid off later in the day by staving off the jet lag, though I certainly still experienced it (and still am experiencing it!). To get from the airport back to campus the JFRC provided coach buses for us. I fell asleep on the bus as well but it was a nice service that the JFRC provided.

Immediately upon arriving on campus we ate lunch. The food was classic Italian with pasta (red and white), cheese, and fruit for dessert. After lunch we had to take care of some paper work and after that the SLA’s (Student Life Assistants) provided walking tours of the neighborhood so we could get our bearings. After that, though, we were pretty much on our own for the rest of the night. And that’s where the real fun began.

I got together with a group of about ten people. We left campus at 8:30 and walked down to the Vatican which is about a 45 minute walk. From there we walked to the nearby Castel S’Angelo, an old fortress built to protect the Pope. Lastly, we walked over to Piazza Navona and explored the neighborhood surrounding it.

The culture shock isn’t bad- yet. Of course I’m a tad homesick; it’s hard not to be when you’ve never left your home country. It’s difficult to cross the language barrier, but it’s not impossible. And the jetlag is still weighing on me, but I know that’s fleeting. Despite this, Rome is a great place to stay and the JFRC staff go out of their way to make you feel at home. It feels like they’ve thought of everything and every answer to your questions: how does the bus system work? How does tipping in restaurants work? What is siesta? What’s the alcohol policy on campus? What are the best ways to travel and the best places to visit? How do you get to downtown Rome? To all these questions and more the staff has more than adequate answers.

So thus far, the adjustment isn’t difficult. In a sense, it’s like freshman year again: you have to branch out, make friends, and explore a city you don’t know. There’s a learning curve with everything, just like there is when you’re a freshman, but there’s also a reward to be had: great friends, a great city, a great culture, and a once in a lifetime experience.

I’m excited to keep exploring Rome and writing about it here. Check back later for more about my experiences!



Ciao a tutti!

Don’t be thrown off by the fact that the first four words of this blog have been in Italian, I do not know Italian (yet). But I do know how important words are to us humans and therefore I will warn you all right here and right now that all of my blog posts will be centered around the word I choose to use as the title. You will learn to love it though, don’t worry.

Today I begin my grand adventure to Rome to study for the first semester of my senior year of college. So, if you have already looked up “culaccino” or you have seen the picture posted below you will wonder what this word has to do with my expeditions.

"Pre-Day One"
“Culaccino” – (Italian) The mark left on a table by a cold glass.

1. It’s the only Italian word I could find that was untranslatable in English other than “gattara,” which describes and old lonely lady who devotes herself to stray cats… you can see why that wasn’t my first choice.

2. The fact that the Italians have a single word for such a simple image that we have all experienced in our lives gets me more excited than ever to visit such a beautiful country! I hope to find myself smiling at many a marks left on tables by cold glasses while I am abroad.

Anyways, I am not going to ramble on about myself today simply because the more you read the more you will get to know me and this blog is primarily about every one of you anyways. Here’s to hoping you all can get something out of my blog at least once during my travels.

Gotta jet, time to catch my flight!


Day 13: Citta del Vaticano

Day 13: Citta del Vaticano

OK, so many people that I have talked to (catholic or not) have said that The Vatican is not worth it. “It’s too hot.” “It takes forever.”  Blahh blah Blah… FALSE! The Vatican is beautiful and very much worth seeing! Being catholic myself, it was very cool to see and something that is apart of my religion and has so much art and history, but I had friends with me that were not catholic and really enjoyed it too. I would definatley recommend that you buy your tickets online before you go. It is only 12 euro (because you get a student discount) and you get to skip the massive line that wraps around the walls of The Vatican. You go straight to security and you’re good to go!

Side note: To all the ladies out there… cover your knees and shoulders when visiting The Vatican. Yes, its hot. But you will not be let in to the Sistine Chapel or St. Peter’s in your short shorts and tank top. I would suggest wearing a dress and carrying a scarf with you to cover your shoulders when you need to. Don’t make the mistake I did and wear pants, it is way too hot for that.

That being said, I actually went through The Vatican twice during my 4 weeks in Rome and I’m pretty sure I still didn’t see everything. My first time at The Vatican, I went through the main parts of the museum as well as St. Peter’s Basilica and climbed the dome of St. Peters; all which took a grand total of 8 hours. Yes, you read that right, 8 hours. I had some people in my group that were readers. They stopped and read almost everything in every room, which was informative but it took a while. My second time going through only took about 3 hours and I actually saw more of The Vatican than I did the first time. So don’t worry, it doesn’t actually take 8 hours to get through the museum.

All in all, The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica are a MUST SEE in Rome (Catholic or not). They are two of the most beautiful and intricate pieces of art and architecture I have ever seen. (I was actually convinced that St. Peter’s wasn’t real until I actually went inside.) It is that beautiful. Rome is that beautiful. No picture does anything justice and if you look at something too long it ends up looking like a 2D painting. But don’t forget your cameras at home because you’ll defiantly want to at least try to capture the beauty to show your friends and family. Be my guest and check out my pictures of St. Peter’s and The Vatican museum 🙂 Enjoy!


One of the many beautifully painted ceilings in The Vatican.
Inside of St. Peter’s.
On top of the dome of St. Peter’s. Amazing view!
One of the many views of St. Peter’s from inside The Vatican museum.
XI’AN BOUND: August 17, 2013

XI’AN BOUND: August 17, 2013

Train T43 departs for Xi’an


I was extremely excited yet also very nervous. I was about to embark on a two week trip that I now know changed my life. We were given a brief presentation on the trip to come during Orientation week and a booklet filled with the itinerary, extra information about each place, and the TBC rules. The booklet is referred to by all as the bible, and bus rides were punctuated with “pull out your bible” or “check your bible.”


I flipped through the “bible” and read it front to back in all my excitement with my fantastic roommate Beatrice (check out her China Vlog: Packing was definitely difficult since I’m a “just-incase” packer but also a “minimalist” packer. I packed every medicine and band-aid I brought to satisfy my “just-incase” side first and fore-mostly(I was not going to let any kind of illness prevent me from seeing China!). After rolling up the rest of my two-week articles into a small suitcase and a back-pack fit to burst, Beatrice and I fell into a restless sleep. At 5:00pm the next day, TBC students met in the lobby of the dorm building (Building 6) and headed to West Train Station!

Dinner was set to be at the West Train Station itself. It wasn’t exactly luxury dining, but we all dispersed to find the Fast-food joint that best fit our appetites.
Beatrice and Samer headed for McDonald’s, while my friend Cameron and I headed to a Korean Cafe we had seen (he’s vegetarian). I ordered vegetarian bibimbap. Actually, Cameron did most of the ordering with his fancy 4 years of Chinese language experience (so resourceful), I merely pointed to things at the menu and said zhe ge (this) whenever it was deemednecessary. The food was actually pretty good, but we didn’t have much time to savor the mixed veggies and rice.

We hurriedly stuffed our faces and headed back to the Trian T43 gates, which was set to depart for Xi’an at 7:50pm. I had never ridden an overnight train, so I was fascinated by the seating arrangement we would see. We were handed our tickets and HALLELUJAH I was in the same train cart as Beatrice. We were in Train Cart 1.

We were in what are called the hard-sleepers.The carts had two walls and each side had 3 beds (bunk beds). The top one was pretty high up, as in much taller than me and I’m 5’5”. The bottom one was by far the best (it’s the most expensive to purchase) and you could sit all the way up straight without banging your head on another bunk. The middle bunk was not super high but a jump down, and you banged your head on the top bunk if you sat up straight. Luggage could be put under the bottom bunks or on the foot area of the top bunk.

Each bunk had a reading light at the head. I stuffed my luggage under the mini table under the window, and the rest of the TBCers in the cart: Jesse, Julia, Angie, and Jean. I was in the middle bunk (no room to sit up!) so I sat on the bottom bunk with Beatrice. The cart had squat toilets near the exit doors, and sinks and mirror (no soap or toilet paper though! Thank God I packed gallons of hand-sanitizer). Lights out at 10:30pm! I woke up at 7:00am after a surprisingly deep sleep, and the view outside was gorgeous! I plugged in my headphones, munched on some chocolate-chip granola bars, stared at the gorgeous scenery, and journaled a bit.


…And then the cutest kids came to our cart shouting MEI GUO REN (American people!). A bunch of us spent the rest of the morning  talking to the kids. They were hysterical! They kept playing tag and hide-and-seek and attempting to speak English while I equally attempted to speak Chinese. One of them had a tiny, little baby turtle (which I was a tad bit worried about considering he kept shaking it around).
After saying our sad goodbyes to our new Chinese friends, we rushed out of the train at precisely 8:34am sharp. The train station was bustling and crowded and we all stuck close to one another…and after 12 hours on a train and probably 5 staircases, we were finally emerging in Xi’an!!!

Funny/interesting Chilean terms

Funny/interesting Chilean terms

So I had a wonderfully thoughtful and personal post that I had typed up on the plane just before actually stepping foot on the soil (or airport) of the United States again but…. I accidentally deleted it.

So in lieu of that, I present you with a small list of funny words that myself and funny girl Antonella Terraccina came up with on one of our study breaks from finals.


These area a few colloquialisms that Chileans use that unique to Chile and are sometimes hilarious.


_______ es/sería/era la raja! (RA ha)

‘La raja’ literally means ‘buttcrack’ but people use it to mean ‘the best’ or ‘awesome’.

Fome – boring (FO may)

If you don’t want to go out to a party, you’re being ‘fome’

Party – ‘Carrete’ (car AY tay)

Also can also be used as a verb : carretear

Palta = Avocado

In all other spanish speaking countries, avacado is ‘aguacate’

Lata = boring


People rarely say ‘para’ in its entirety. Rather, it’s shortened to ‘pa’ and used that way even on menus sometimes (‘pa comer’ = to eat)

Weon(wn)/Huevon/Gueón (way OWN)

A very interesting word, and one which I’m unsure how to spell. It’s meaning can vary from ‘dude’ (you will hear it every two seconds when listening to any conversation between pubescent to adult males) all the way to the much less polite ‘F**ker’ if someone uses it with the intent of insulting. Shortened to ‘wn’ by locals.

Bacán (buh CAN)

The Chilean word for ‘cool’. Some say it comes from the American slang ‘Rock On’, and my host mother insists that it comes from Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and party. Either way, hilarious. Shortened to ‘bkn’ when written.

Flaite (fly-tee)

‘Lower class’ for lack of a better term. Chileans use this word to describe people exhibiting behavior that they consider as completely lacking class, with the same mental cringe that we get when thinking of the antics of the characters from the Jersey Shore

There you are! You are now equipped with words to help you understand Chilean culture, or at least help you understand Chilean speech, a lot better.