The GoGlobal Blog

Month: February 2016

“Happiness is a state of mind! It’s just according to the way you look at things.”

“Happiness is a state of mind! It’s just according to the way you look at things.”

-Walt Disney

A sign to my immediate right said: "Please don't touch the water."
A sign to my immediate right said: “Please don’t touch the water.” So, I guess you could call me a rebel.

I’m writing hot off the heels of my Dramatic Criticism class, where weekly, us students get together with our instructor to painstakingly point out all the flaws in every piece of theatre we see. I find it hard to take part in this class because it’s SO much easier to nit pick personal dislikes than it is to appreciate a certain director or actor or designer’s personal vision for a play. I know they’re just opinions…and I know we’re supposed to be critical (not mean!)…but if we artists don’t defend each other, who will?

So, that’s why the title is what it is! Just enjoy theatre, feel what you feel, if you go into the show wanting to find something wrong with it…well that’s just no fun at all!

ENOUGH! Let me tell you about my adventures this week now!

So, this weekend me and my roommates went on a guided bus tour to Stonehenge and Bath! (So, I guess you can say we got stoned and took a bath…..sorry. Okay, I had to. Stop. I thought it was funny!) On the way to Stonehenge we passed miles and miles of  beautiful farmland separated by hedgerows and stone walls! The whole place really looked like a giant green patchwork quilt. The air was so fresh I could’ve bottled it and sold it to Chinese people who spend their lives breathing in smog! (MAXWELL.) Anyways, this is the crazy thing about Stonehenge…it was constructed between 3000 and 2000 BCE by prehistoric tribes of people. We don’t know WHY. The two types of rock used for the monument were blue stone and sarsen stone. The sarsen stone was dragged from 20 MILES AWAY. DRAGGED. BY PEOPLE. THESE 30-TON SLABS OF STONE. And the blue stone was taken from 3 miles away! WHY on EARTH did they drag these things all the way to THIS spot?? It blows my mind. And the blue stone is volcanic rock so it’s slightly warmer than the sarsen stone. The blue stone is in the inner circle of the formation, so scholars suggest this was a place of healing. Oh, what’s even more remarkable-The arrangement of stones matches up with the solar calendar AND the lunar calendar. (Yeah, big deal, Taylor, they can see the sun and moon, what’s so impressive?) WELL, voices in my head-People in that time lived only to be about 20. The lunar calendar is 18.5 years. Do you know how intelligent these prehistoric people had to be in order to track the movement of the moon over generations and then BUILD a giant stone structure that perfectly aligned with it? SO INTELLIGENT. I have one explanation:




Okay, I’m kidding. (OR AM I) But seriously, though, how did they do it? This kind of mystery is so fascinating!!


After my mindblowing Stonehenge experience, our chipper tour guide, Alice, corralled the group on to the bus. From Stonehenge, it was another winding road through the countryside (past a LOT of sheepies!) to Bath! The best thing about Bath (besides how it has the only natural hot spring in the UK) are their building regulations! Since historic Bath was built with nearby quarries’ limestone, all new projects must use the architectural style and materials of historic Bath! That way, the whole town looks like this amazing, synchronized civilization! Tall, thin, yellowish buildings nestled in the valley emerged as the bus rounded the last hill. Rows upon rows of them became more detailed as we got closer, revealing the subtle differences and quirks in each. The cobblestone roads shined in the rain when we arrived, making the whole town look like a movie set. We toured the Roman Baths, which was a Roman temple and bathhouse built around an ancient hot spring. It was beautiful to see the hot water making mist in the cold winter air…I could imagine the allure of such a place before central heating became a thing. We all got to taste the water, too, which supposedly heals people because of it’s obnoxious mineral content. (Let’s be real, though, it tasted like pennies and playground equipment-and my sore throat was the opposite of healed!) But hey, it’s fun to pretend! After that, of course, we headed to the local Lush and bought ourselves a couple Bath bath bombs! (They’re bubbling concentrated soap bars that fizz in your bath to make one feel super fancy whilst you marinate in your own person soup-incredibly necessary after a long day in the rain.)


Okay my mother and my two other favorite women are coming to grace me with their presence tomorrow and I MUST go to bed now so that the day comes sooner! SO FAREWELL! I can’t wait to fill you all in after my mid-semester break adventures!




Oh Cambodia

Oh Cambodia

Our time in Cambodia was a whirlwind of sights, tastes, and lessons. The five-day trip was split between two prominent cities: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and for having such a packed schedule, everything (save for one flight delay) went incredibly smoothly. In both cities, we had tours and private buses – or in some cases, private tuk tuk squads – to take us from one site to the next.

Our journey to Phnom Penh began with a pitstop in “No Man’s Land”, the stretch of land and time in between officially leaving Vietnam and entering Cambodia. Already we could feel the difference between Saigon’s more humid heat to the inner arid heat of Cambodia.

Our first half-day in the capital was spent at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Tuol Sleng was first a high school, but was used as a prison during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. We were told that around 20,000 people passed through the prison, referred to as S21 (Security Office 21) by the Khmer Rouge. Heinously inhumane acts taint the grounds and the walls, as prisoners from all backgrounds were kept, tortured, and killed there. And yet, the grass was green, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping. How disorienting it was to learn of pure violence in the midst of such tranquil scenery.

This feeling continued on the next day as we visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, one of the over 300 killing fields pockmarking the landscape of Cambodia. According to the audio guide, the first grave on the tour held around 450 bodies. It was the largest, but there were plenty more empty graves to suggest a much higher number.

I listened to the survivors’ stories, and while they moved me to a deep sorrow, I know I could never truly understand what they went through. I hope and pray that no one else will have to ever again.

The following day we departed for Siem Reap. Our itinerary in the city was comprised primarily of a tour of the temples. Beginning at Angkor Wat at sunrise, we made our way to the Bayon, and finally, Ta Prohm. Although dated and crumbling, the temples were a stunning sight to behold. Intricate carvings adorned every wall, column, and tower. They were magnificent. No photos could do them justice (although I tried).

A whirlwind it was, but Cambodia isn’t going anywhere, and in my opinion it would be well worth a second visit (or a third, or a tenth).

Cliffs, Dodgeball, and New Friends

Cliffs, Dodgeball, and New Friends

I need to make corrections to my last blog post. As it turns out the Milk Market is EVERY WEEK, not an annual thing. I guess I should have been playing closer attention, but I am finally getting used to being here. A lot has happened in my first few weeks here and it just keeps getting better and better. So far, It feels like I have seen almost all of Limerick and it is truly a beautiful city where there is always something to do. I also visited Adare and Cashel where I found little village walks and plenty of castles. Last weekend, a friend and I planned a hiking trip to Doolin in County Clare and were surprised to find ourselves so close to the Cliffs of Moher! So, feeliing adventurous, we decided to walk the entire length of the Cliffs and it completely amazed us. The pictures we took do not do it justice.

If you are going to travel around in Ireland, I highly recommend Bed&Breakfasts because you meet incredibly interesting people and you feel at home. My friend and I stayed at Doll’s Cottage and we had two warm beds and full Irish breakfasts each morning along with some great stories from our hosts and the wonderful company of their big dog called Johnny Depp. Just to give you an idea of Irish hospitality, they gave me one of their coats because they knew mine would not be warm enough and then they drove us to the cliffs so we would not have to take the bus. We even made a stop at St. Bridget’s fountain, which a lot of people pass by. I am so glad we stopped. It was filled with pictures and candles lit for those who come to pray for loved ones who are sick or dying.

If there is one thing I am so happy I did is get involved and join a society. For the sake of keeping some free time to travel and explore, I joined one society which is the International Student Society. Through this, I am able to meet new people not just from Ireland, but from all over. We even plan trips together so we can all explore the country as a group. Just this past weekend, about 30 of us went to the Ring of Kerry and had a great time. We also have weekly movie nights and epic dodgeball games. With all this going on, I can say that I have never in my life been around people who are so nice and welcoming to everyone. Hopefully I will be able to keep in touch with the friends I make here after I go back to America. 

Defining Happiness through a Panino

Defining Happiness through a Panino

Venturing into the city center on a random Tuesday afternoon for pranzo (lunch in Italian) is a rarity in the typical university education system. However, for an Italian project, my professor asked us to go to one of her favorite restaurants around the city and order in Italian.

My group, consisting of three people total, chose Panino Romanesco as our destination, a quaint little paninoteca near Piazza Navona in Rome. The owner, Simona, is a good friend of my Italian teacher, and she welcomed us with a huge smile and hug as soon as we told her “Siamo studenti di Daniela!” (We are Daniela’s students” in Italian).

Simona homemakes every item in her café, from the bread to the delicious pollo (chicken). Simona happily serves all her customers, most of whom are very Italian and regular customers. Aside from the life-changing panino of grilled chicken and peppers I ate on this beautiful, 65 degree Tuesday afternoon in February, Simona and Panino Romanesco has been on my mind ever since.

The happiness and passion that Simona exudes when a new customer walks into her shop is heartwarming – each customer is welcome, appreciated, and special. Although numerous cultural differences during my time in Italy have allowed me to reflect on how I live my day-to-day life back in the United States, Simona made me reconsider the idea of “happiness” that Americans seem to hold on such a high pedestal.

The difference, however, is that so often we Americans have a dangerous form of myopia – we believe that the only way to achieve happiness or self-worth is through material goods, whether it be the latest iPhone model or the new Lilly Pulitzer dress that rings up to well-over $200. We constantly are wanting, which, arguably, is the basis of why so many Americans are unhappy. We dwell on comparison and our shortcomings, but not on the basis of character or moral goodness, but on materialism and the fatal idealism of the American Dream.

Meanwhile, in Rome, a woman brings light to so many others simply by serving homemade sandwiches every day. Her happiness comes from the ability to nurture customers’ hunger, and, more importantly, ability to bring joy to others through this special talent she possesses.

Perhaps we should all try to be more like Simona, and remember that the important things in life are right in front of us. The best things in life are not things. Cliché? Perhaps. However, I am grateful for this kind Italian woman’s kind soul that allowed me to learn something about myself and the way I live my life.

For those that happen to find themselves wandering around Rome, Panino Romanesco is located at Via di Parione 34.

Chinese New Year: Year of the Monkey

Chinese New Year: Year of the Monkey

2016 is the year of the monkey and London held quite a celebration for this Chinese New Year. People of all ages and backgrounds were in attendance and it was exciting to experience the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia. With events being held in Trafalgar Square and nearby China Town there was an abundance of things to see and do, as people rang in the new year.

It was a very busy scene where the celebrations were being held, with everyone coming out to take part. I was able to try a few different foods and get a glimpse of the traditional dragon dance on the streets of China Town. Seeing the amount of people who were there to celebrate, I could tell that London was a great place to be for the year of the monkey.

欢迎来云南!Welcome to Yunnan! Part 1

欢迎来云南!Welcome to Yunnan! Part 1

The Beijing Center takes students on a two-week excursion every semester. In the fall, students travel the route of the Silk Road; in the spring, students travel around the Yunnan Province. Yunnan means “south of the clouds” and its weather is known as being eternal spring. It’s the furthest province south in China, bordering Myanmar and Burma. I’ll be writing about my day to day experiences and perceptions of China for the next two weeks of my excursion travels.

Day 1- Feb 1- Beijing to Kunming

We left Beijing and headed to the airport around 9:30 AM by bus. Driving in the big yellow bus reminded me of when I first came to UIBE. It was like I was seeing Beijing in a whole new light, literally. Since it was daytime I was able to really see life outside of UIBE on a typical weekday morning.

While waiting for the plane, I was able to have a long conversation with our director, Nick, and Dr. Paul who joined us on our excursion and would help if any medical issues arose. It was interesting to listen to Dr. Paul’s story, and it was fun sharing my own story and answering questions.

After a 3.5 hour flight we prepared to land; we couldn’t see anything out of the windows due to the dense fog that blanketed Kunming. Then, all of a sudden, the runway appeared outside our window and the tires screeched upon hitting the pavement. After leaving the plane, we quickly discovered that Kunming was sadly not eternal spring. It had gotten a cold front just before we arrived, so that put a damper on the hope for warm weather, and a slight concern for me since I didn’t pack a lot of winter thermals with me.

For the next two nights, we stayed in a hotel on the campus of Yunnan University. The shower was amazing! Great pressure, and the best part was that the heat was adjustable! It was a luxury that I definitely miss from home. At UIBE you can’t adjust the heat, so it’s either extremely hot, cold, or in the middle.

Day 2- Feb 2- Kunming

Today we started off the day with breakfast, but some of us couldn’t find the restaurant we were supposed to go to, so we just found a baozi (they’re buns filled with meat) restaurant. Afterwards, Dominic (a fellow TBC student) and I walked around the outside of campus for a long time. However, we had gotten the start time of the next activity wrong and ended up running back to the hotel. Since I haven’t been able to run on my own since I left Chicago, I’m definitely out of shape, but also adding to my windedness was the smog during the day.

After some student presentations the group left for the Yunnan Provincial Museum. It was a great museum, but it was so cold. Since it’s almost always eternal spring, there is no insulation and all doors are open, so for this unexpectedly cold spell, it was very cold to walk around. Afterwards we went to Guandu Old Town to have lunch and explore. It was a huge market street lined with vendors, vendors galore! For lunch we had yummy traditional Kunming noodle soup. I then purchased a really cool sugar animal. The vendor took some sort of melted sugar, and poured it onto what looked like a block of ice in intricate patterns of all sorts of animals. You name it, he made it. I got a beautiful crane for only 5 kuai (less than $1)! It was my favorite part of the market.

We then got back on the bus and went to the Yunnan Ethnic Museum. We tried buying simple embroidered shirts, but they were 5,000 kuai (almost $800)! After the museum, we went to feed Siberian seagulls at the Green Lake, which is the largest lake in Kunming. There were thousands of seagulls! They fly all the way from Siberia to Kunming for the spring weather. It was fun to feed them, and to watch people’s reactions to flocks of birds flying towards them. A few TBC students even got pooped on!

Once we were back to the hotel, a few of us walked through the Yunnan University campus. It’s beautiful! There were gardens everywhere, mini pagodas, and traditional Chinese buildings. It put the beauty of Loyola Chicago’s campus to shame.

After wandering the street vendors and getting more food, we prepared for our first homestay at the Yi village.

Day 3- Feb 3- Kunming/Yi Village

We packed up and left Kunming for the Yi village in the morning. I was so excited, but didn’t know what to expect. This was our first homestay out of two. The bus ride was unexpectedly beautiful! I’m used to doing 4.5-hour car rides, but that’s all flat land. In China, it’s all breathtaking mountain, lake, and village views. After a few hours of our crazy driver speeding around curves of the mountain we reached the Yi village. We were greeted by the Yi women and children dressed in their traditional clothing. The women were dressed in beautiful red tops completely embroidered with tassels and matching black embroidered pants. They wore red shoes and a beautiful large intricately embroidered hat. They sang a traditional song and preformed a dragon dance.

We were then paired with our homestay families. I was with Carlyn, Megan, Molly, Jessie, and Jessica. We were brought into their beautiful traditional house with a large “hole” in the ceiling which allows sunlight to come in and air to flow out. This is traditional architecture of the Yi people because they live in spring weather all the time. We were served delicious food, but there was too much of it! Our host grandma continuously fed us and got mad when we didn’t finish the food. I basically ended up eating five full meals for lunch. Halfway through lunch, I had to go to the bathroom since we hadn’t gone since our last rest stop on the bus. Something that definitely caught me off guard was the toilet. I was expecting a squatty potty, but their bathroom was a giant latrine with two sets of bricks to stand on. Let’s just say that I am no longer squatty shy.

After lunch, the Yi people preformed more songs and dances, and we were given the opportunity to learn the traditional dance and the dragon dance. Surprisingly, it was easy to pick up and I was pretty good at it! The dragon dance was a little hard to do since the dragon was heavy, but it was fun! The leader holding the head faces the rest of the train, then moves the head in an infinity pattern, and after the person follows the path two seconds later.

After dinner we climbed a small mountain that overlooked the Yi village. It was a beautiful view!

Even though many people complained about the homestay, I loved it! I loved the grandparents, even though the grandma kept feeding us. She was so open and welcoming. She taught us how to properly do certain things, even though she barely knew us, and she treated us like her own children. It helped that I went in with an open mind, but I also respect that this is how the Yi people live. They have equally as fulfilling lives as we do, even though they don’t have the same luxuries and technology we have. After this homestay, it was very easy to separate the two types of people who study abroad; the ones who study abroad to party and live comfortably, and the ones who fully immerse themselves into the culture to experience it firsthand.

Day 4- Feb 4- JianShui

The next day we had breakfast with our host families, said our goodbyes, shopped around, and left the Yi village headed to the city of JianShui. It was another four hours of traveling in our squished yellow buses, but I didn’t mind the traveling. Besides sleeping, I often found myself staring out of the window looking at the endless mountains, crops, and village views. I would journal, but I often found myself lost in thought about the Yi village and my expectations for the rest of my trip. The Yi village gave me mixed emotions. I loved learning about the traditional culture of the village, but I didn’t like that everything was a show. The whole day was about performances both by TBC and the villagers. We weren’t given a lot of time to explore the village, or even our own host family’s home. What bothered me what that the host family wouldn’t eat with us. The six of us would eat crouched over a small wooden table, while the host family was nowhere to be found. I understand the importance of the concept of holding guests higher than oneself and saving face by giving guests the best accommodations possible, but I still can’t get over the reasoning behind not eating together.

After arriving and checking into our hotel in JianShui, I was able to take a warm-ish shower, then wander around the city. Many cities in China are not based on a grid system, so I was constantly getting lost. A lot of students got really sick after the Yi village, a handful of students and even our TBC director and the doctor had to stay behind and not go to our next destination, the Hani village.

Day 5- Feb 5- Hani Village

Noodle soup is now one of my favorite types of meals to have in China! Noodle soup is typically served for breakfast, but I could honestly eat if for every meal. Whatever mixture of vegetables, leaves, and meat put into the broth creates a heavenly taste when combined with noodles. After breakfast and getting lost trying to find my way back to the hotel, we checked out and started our five-hour bus ride to the Hani village. To get to the village, we have to climb the mountain taking twists, turns, and almost falling off the edge a few times. I would recommend to never try and pass vehicles on mountain roads, especially in a big yellow bus. We were all relieved to arrive at the village unscathed and only slightly scarred from our bus driver’s crazy driving.

Immediately after stepping off the bus, I noticed big differences between the Hani and Yi villages. The Hani people live in houses primarily made of clay and stone, usually with thatched roofs. The Hani village was much more dirty than the Yi village. I will spare the details of the bathrooms, but let’s just say I would take my host family’s bathroom over the Hani bathrooms.

We were greeted by three groups of women: young girls, young adults, and a group of grandmas (see a recurring theme here?), all with different traditional clothing. The elders wore white tops embroidered with black, purple, and blue with matching black pants. The younger adults wore pink embroidered tops with green pants and intricate hats that looked like black donuts. It was a type of tightly wrapped black headpiece with a hole in the middle where a braided bun filled in the gaps. The young girls wore multicolored outfits with small pieces of jewelry or coins sewn into it making a jingling sound. The young girls’ hats were very intricate and unique as well. It only covered the back half of the head, and it spiked upwards with their ponytails holding it in place.

A banquet was waiting for us when we finished trekking through the village. Circular tables were pushed together in a straight row called a long-street banquet. We were fed meat, spicy vegetables, red rice, undistinguishable dishes, mango juice, and a select few had bai jiu (a common drink found in China that is an extremely concentrated alcoholic shot. Be careful if it’s ever offered to you.

After lunch, the young girls lead us to hike the rice terraces. This was the part everyone was excited for! We wanted to see the beauty of the terraces and be true tourists and take tons of pictures. As we started hiking it was clear that, like the village, everything was covered by fog, and the fog was not going to lift. This is the first time in 10 years of the TBC program running that it had been that foggy. However, I flipped by switch (thanks mom J) and enjoyed my hike through the terraces. It was mind boggling how big a single rice terrace was. We even saw a group of villagers carving out room for another terrace. Something sad that I saw, was that there was garbage everywhere. Water bottles, wrappers, tissues, everything was just thrown on the ground, and will probably never be cleaned up.

Walking uphill through the terraces and back to the village gave me a new appreciation for daily life in the villages, particularly for the elders. All the elderly I have encountered have been super strong, mobile, and the heads of their households. In the Yi village, our host grandma did everything, from cooking, to bringing out the food, moving tables, all while refusing help. In the Hani village, there were elders walking uphill with loads of grains in baskets on their shoulders, and they didn’t even look tired. In Beijing, the elders are the ones we see who are taking care of the young children. It’s just amazing how crucial they are in society for both the family and their village.

After a long and slightly disappointing day we looked forward to getting to our hotel and taking showers and relaxing; however, that didn’t happen. One thing that is the hardest thing to accept about travel, is that not everything will go the way you plan. Our hotel didn’t have any running water and was the type of hotel a normal traveler would not go to. For those of you who know of my travels to Wuhu, it was like that hotel but much less clean and accommodating. In the end, I ended up having a sleepover with two of my friends, Megan and Silvia for the night. My roommate sadly had to stay in JianShui because she was sick. We ended up watching a movie and kept warm with all the body heat (there was also no heater in the hotel).

Day 6- Feb 6- JingHong

This was one our long boring parts of the trip. It was an eight-hour bus ride from the Hani Village to the city of JingHong. We were headed to the Southernmost tip of China. One of the highlights of the bus ride was when we stopped along the roadside with tons and tons of fruit stands! Apples, oranges, dragon fruit, star fruit, and bananas galore!! The closer we were to JingHong, the more abundant bananas were.

After our long journey and catching up with all the TBC members who skipped the Hani village, we checked into our hotel. When we walked in, I was so relieved. It was a beautiful hotel with heat, water, and the most comfortable bed I have slept on since being in China. After coming out of the shower, my words to my roommate, Bailey, was “I think I died, went to heaven, and came back”. The hot water (which was adjustable) was a luxury after the past 3 days. Even the dorms at UIBE don’t have adjustable water temperatures!

That night a group of us went to a popular western café called MeiMei Café. I thought the food was pretty good, I had a burger, fries, fresh squeezed lemonade, and fantastic chocolate brownie with ice cream. Afterwards we went to the midnight market and looked around and shopped. The market was vendors on vendors with trinkets, scarves, clothes, bags, jade, you name it! Too bad we only spent one night in that amazing hotel. The next day we were on our way to our final homestay in the Dai village.

That about sums of the first half of the amazing excursion. Keep on the lookout for part 2! 再见!

“Sometimes the right path is not the easy one…”

“Sometimes the right path is not the easy one…”

-Grandmother Willow, Pocahontas

Especially when that path is through a wall on your way to Hogwarts!
Especially when that path is through a wall on your way to Hogwarts!

Hello family and friends!!

I know it’s been a while, but time moves differently when you’ve got 9AM-6PM classes every day and a strong affiliation for napping.

I’m here to fill you in on some of my adventures that I’ve painstakingly wedged in around all the hard schoolwork we’ve been up to here at LDA. But, Grandmother Willow said it right up there- the right path…ain’t always easy, folks. (Is anyone else catching on that all my titles are Disney quotes? I thought that was super clever…)

So, last Thursday I saw the most INTERESTING piece of theatre I’ve seen in my entire life. Okay, so the audience is seated on steep bleachers and the stage is on the floor in front of them. The ENTIRE place is pitch black the whole show…EXCEPT what handheld lighting equipment the actors used to tell the story. It kind of reminded me of Tron. Like, lasers and beams of light showing hallways and doors. Oh, did I mention there was no dialogue? No SPOKEN dialogue. It was sort of comic-booky because there was a monitor that scrolled one line of text at a time on the wall behind the performers. The dialogue wasn’t even that important, though, because the story was being told through meticulous, nuanced movement and LIGHT. Gosh, it was clever. It was about a future where the entire population is equipped with chips in their brains that allows for constant communication, but constant surveillance by the government. There’s a resistance movement to it, and the main character is charged with crushing the uprising, but he finds out that he may empathize more with their cause. He’s given the choice, then, to betray the government and take them down from the inside, or to crush the rebellion like he’s told. It was inspired, apparently, by the Edward Snowden scandal. (The lead’s name is literally Dearden.) It was called “Light” and it won some stuff at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year.  It underlined the importance all the LaCoq movement work we’ve been doing.

What else…I went to the Vaults (a spooky underground music/party venue) for a Valentine’s Day Ball! My roommates and I dressed up and danced all night to weird folk and jazz bands. Everyone was decked out in “fancy dress” which is what the English call costumes. Some people went ALL out and had fur and masks and feathers, they looked fantastic! I felt like I was conjuring demons with like wiccan as we spun around throwing glitter and feathers. Wait, no! I know what it was like! It was like the nightlife of the Renaissance Faire back home! Like, if those people had a club, it would be like this. Gosh, it was cool. Alexa even did a love potion spell with this lady dressed as an owl!

I ALSO went to the worlds GREATEST outdoor marketplace. It’s called the Borough Market and it’s in the heart of London, but it’s full of foreign cheeses, wines, fruits, veggies, pates, fish, meats, pastries, breads, oils, sweets, candies, and anything else you could possibly imagine. Now, when I picture heaven, that’s what I think it’s gonna be like. Food everywhere. And everyone wants you to try their food! They just leave little trays of it out on the counter and you can walk up and eat as much as you want! and the SMELLS. Oh my GOODNESS. You’re hit with warm cider brewing, then you turn and get sharp smell of cheese, then crisp baked bread… then garlicky oils…then meat pies! I can’t emphasize my love for this place enough! I’m taking my mom and friends when they visit for spring break for SURE.

WELL, I had quite a few adventures this week, but they weren’t easy to cram in to my busy schedule. Sitting here reminiscing has reminded me how important it is to push through the exhaustion and hit these fun and exciting experiences. Sometimes I just have to stop and remember WHERE I am! LONDON. How could I possibly nap in a place like this? With all these experiences and places open for me?! Oh, I’m just getting started. A week from tomorrow marks my mother’s arrival and the beginning of mid-semester break. Let the adventure continue!!



Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

Where the Mountains Meet the Sea

I cannot stop sweating, my skin is sunburnt, my feet haven’t been clean since I arrived, I have given up trying to control my hair, the internet  never seems to work, and the house I live in is infested with cockroaches. Also, I would not change one single thing. Africa is beautiful. Cape Town makes me feel excited and alive.

So much has happened here in such a short amount of time.

First and foremost, I’m happy to announce I have made 19 new wonderful best friends. I came into this experience thinking I would generally enjoy everyone, knowing that a person who decides to get involved with this type of program must be someone I could find something in common with; I had no idea how quickly friendships among the group would form, nor how deep they could get within a period of 72 hours.

In many of our conversations, the general consensus has been that this dynamic is great. I know things may change as time passes. Perhaps people will start developing closer ties with specific members of the group, but no matter how things develop, I know I am in great company and I feel blessed to be with them all.

In fact, one of my beautiful new friends, Kristen, just came over as I was writing this. We were, again, talking about the great group dynamic and she mentioned this: “it’s impossible to feel homesick here because any room you walk in, you can start having the most wonderful conversation with anyone.” Kristen is entirely correct in that sentiment- this group just clicks. Everyone is passionate, everyone is kind, everyone laughs easily and is genuinely interested in getting to know each other.

Oh, and to top it off- people here read! It’s so comforting to find a group of 20 year olds who are interested in intellectually stimulating activities. This place is magical, I swear.

On Sunday the whole group travelled to Camps Bay to go to the beach. It was so wonderful to feel the sun on my skin again. The beaches here are gorgeous, as so many beaches all over the world are. These beaches are special because they are a place where the stunning landscape of Cape Town’s mountains (specifically Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak) is the backdrop of the sparkling sea.


The whole group took pictures and went swimming in the ocean- some of us did get yelled at once for trying to climb on the rocks during high tide, but the authorities didn’t seem to mind too much- they probably assumed we were tourists who didn’t know better.

IMG_5806 the quality of the photo is awful- the opposite can be said for quality of the subjects and photographer.

Yesterday we watched the 10th anniversary video for the South Africa Service Learning program as a group. We talked about what we are getting ourselves involved with, and our director Melikaya emphasized that no matter what we do here, that we ensure this experience is our own experience, that it cannot and should not fall subject to replicate other’s expectations or previous member’s outcomes. I have included the link for the video here:

I was lucky to able to visit my service site yesterday. I was placed at Yabonga, an NGO that serves women, children, and youth either infected  with or affected by HIV/AIDS. In preparing for this trip, I was hopeful I would be placed in an organization where I could use my interest in sexual health as a platform for my service here. I could not have asked for a better placement.
Yabunga’s main offices are beautiful. While most of the services they provide happen in 9 surrounding townships in the Cape Town area. They recruit most of their staff from within the communities they are hoping to impact, and receive referrals primarily from the clinics within the townships.  If I remember correctly, they have been around for 18 years,  employ about 100 people, and have teams in the US, Austria, Switzerland, the UK, and Germany to raise their funds.

Yabonga first started working with women in 1998 who were infected with HIV/AIDS. They soon realized the need to support the children who were either infected by HIV or had parents who were. Those children grew up, and Yabonga continued to support them as they became youth.

The staff works to provide accurate health information in clinics,  community mothers from the specific townships cook and care for the program’s children in their own homes, counselors who are trained in play therapy, engages the youth and follows through on the necessary administrative paperwork . They also have their own garden and bakery so they can create and provide nutritious food to the people in the community they serve. We were able to tour the grounds and the garden and bakery added an enchanting and importantly sustainable element to the NGO.

The truly empowering component of  the Yabonga model is they recruit from the community, and additionally, most of their field staff has been a client in the past.Recruiting from same the townships they work within allows the services allows Yabonga to give communities the means to empower themselves. The administrative staff recognizes that it’s a completely different experience to hear information about HIV/AIDS from a person living with a positive status from your own township, than to hear about it solely from someone like me- a white, privileged outsider who has not been exposed to HIV.

I worried about the “white savior complex” coming into this program. I am generally aware of the impact of my own privilege, and I feared that I might have been put in a position where I would have to engage in a sort of “Voluntourism” where my service would take away from employing the local people who could empower their own communities. The Yabonga model alleviated these fears. There are specific tasks, both administrative and in support of the existing staff I will be able to participate in

Once I begin my service work I will add more details. For now, here’s a photo of the site.


An important side-note: after visiting Yabonga, we visited one of the other service sites called Christine Revell Children’s Home. The organization houses 49 children, from infancy to 5 years old. Of course, as the baby obsessed person I am, going to Christine Revell was a treat. Babies make my heart glow. I may or may not have picked one up while we were on our tour. (In case that wasn’t obvious, I definitely did pick up a small child, and it was one of the highlights of my day and the first thing I came back and told the group).

It’s funny I’ve only been here three days and already it seems as if I’ve been here for weeks. I can talk to anyone about anything and I feel safe. I feel like these people get me.

Today was another beautiful day. I’ll post details later.


I’m Behind…

I’m Behind…



Week three already??

As I mentioned before on my last blog post, I don’t have any classes on Mondays, so I took advantage of this and explored downtown Rome with my friend Alanna. We started our day in a great shopping district doing some window-shopping and looking at all of the deals. (No mom, I didn’t cave in and buy anything. I hope you are proud of me.) After strolling for a bit, we sat at the bar of a café and ordered ourselves a cappuccino. The cappuccinos here are incredible and at €1-€2, you can’t go wrong. Not sure how I’m supposed to return to Starbucks and their prices after this… Following our cappuccinos and some more walking, we went to my favorite geloterria yet, Giolitti. I got fragola (strawberry), caramel, and Oreo cookie. Each flavor was soooo good. We took the gelato to go and ate it outside of the Pantheon while people watching and listening to some street performers. After walking through the Pantheon, we made our way to another café and each picked ourselves up a panino to eat outside in the sun by the Spanish steps.

Tuesday was another day of classes and another night at Scholars for some karaoke. I sang some killer renditions of “Party in the U.S.A.” and “Ignition (Remix)” with friends. Both were a smashing success.

LILY UPDATE: For anyone who tuned into the blog last week, you might remember the girl Lily who I had met at Scholars last time and who bought me shots because she thought I was Jack, a son of one of her mom’s co-workers. Well, the night was going great and just as we were walking out the door I hear a, “Hey! You told me your name Jack!” Uh-oh… With the help of my friends, we were able to convince her that my name was ALSO Jack Moorev (convenient, right?) and I also knew a Lillian that was in Rome. Her and all three of her friends bought it. Hopefully this will be the end of Lily updates for a while.

On Wednesday, I attended the mass of the Holy Spirit at one of the most beautiful churches in Rome with numerous classmates. This is a JFRC tradition that sort of signifies the end of orientation and the official beginning of our semester. This church was beautiful. I truly wish there was a way I could even begin to describe it. Following mass we went out for an Italian meal. The four-course meal had two standout parts for me. The first would be the pear pasta that we were served. Pear pasta you say? Yes, you read that correctly. It was these noodles stuffed with some sort of pear puree and doused in a pear infused alfredo sauce. It was incredible. My other favorite part of the meal was the gelato we were served for dessert. They described it as a sort of truffle gelato. The outside was covered with espresso bean powder, and then a chocolate layer and inside of that was a vanilla layer. So so good.

Thursday was my first on-site class. The JFRC offers several partially on-site classes, meaning we go to various sites within Rome or even further away in order to compliment our in-class lectures. On this particular morning, I traveled to Ara Coeli, another one of the many beautiful churches in Rome, for my Writing Fiction in Rome class. This particular church hosted the Santo Bambino, a wood carving of the baby Jesus all dressed in jewels. People from all over the world will write letters to the Santo Bambino. He is especially prayed to for healthy pregnancies. After this we walked around the neighborhood we were in. That night I booked another trip. I will be Barcelona bound in April! I am so excited for the opportunity to explore yet another beautiful city and country while abroad.

This particular weekend was everybody’s first real chance to travel. However, some friends and myself were the minority that remained on campus. This gave us a great opportunity to catch up on sleep, get ahead on homework and explore the beautiful city of Rome even more. We went downtown, had some McDonalds (the menus here are different and SO much better… America needs to step up its game), ate gelato and finally made it to the Trevi Fountain. Throwing a coin in your right hand over your left shoulder and into the fountain ensures that you will return to Rome again in the future. Let’s hope! We also booked two more trips over the weekend. I will be heading to Dublin this weekend and Amsterdam later in the month.

Until next time,


Tet Holiday in Kien Giang

Tet Holiday in Kien Giang

I had the most fortunate opportunity to spend four insightful days with my partner Mai in her hometown. Kien Giang and her family of 8 siblings and 2 hard-working parents welcomed me with open arms straight to their dinner table.

I arrived on Saturday evening after a smooth 8 hour ride to the southern province. The house was quiet for perhaps the first and last time of the holiday; her older brother Bay was wrapping the last of the Banh Tet with banana leaves as a nephew waited nearby, ready to cook them into the night. It was around 4 in the afternoon, which meant both of her parents were still working; her mother, feeding the pigs around the back of the house, and her father, out tending the field one last time before the rest of his children would arrive. I greeted them both with the “Xin chào bác” my partner had instructed me to use. With her brothers I would use “anh”, with her sisters “chị“, with the two 16-year-old nephews “em”, and finally, with the younger children, I would use “cháu“. Of course, these are all with the proper intonation.

Over the course of the afternoon and the following day, the remaining siblings arrived. I soon stopped asking which child belonged to which sister or brother; there were far too many to keep count of relations. I was put to work each day, which gave me a sense of purpose, but at the same time treated like a guest. I soon learned the meaning of the phrase “ăn đi” or “eat up” and heard the phrase “be like in your own home” multiple times. It seemed her parents’ sole concern was that I was properly fed (thankfully, there never has been a time when I wasn’t, and it shows) and treated like a guest.

I also learned what it felt like to be in someone else’s home for an important family-oriented holiday. At times, I felt like an intruder. During those times I would escape out to the front porch area to write in my journal and soak up the calm Mekong air. Other times, I would simply sit and witness an exchange of words still so foreign to me, met with a sharp retort or unbridled laughter. Here was a family who loved each member dearly, and through the trials and tribulations life may have thrown at them, they made it through each one with the assurance that family would always be there for them. It was a beautiful sight to see that made my own heart ache for the same warmth I find in my own family, but at the same time feeling blessed (yes, I said it, #blessed) to be able to be part of such a wonderful family if only for a brief time.

Thank you Kien Giang, thank you Mai, and thank you to your family. I will never forget them.