Last Wednesday, I started volunteering at a day care center (in a marginal neighborhood on the outskirts of Granada, a 40-minute bus ride from my homestay), where I work in the two-year-old room. There are 20 two year olds, one teacher, and me.
November 3, 2007
November 4, 2007
Two weeks ago was the much anticipated 17th national congress meeting held in the Great Hall of the People right off Tiananmen square. Beijing has never felt so clean and (can you believe it?) even more crowded!
November 5, 2007
These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions that I have yet to reflect upon. I just returned from the train station, where I parted ways with my parents. Last week, or more appropriately the past five days, Bucknell en France provided us with a short vacation. This vacation or what I prefer to call an extended weekend was a short break from a workload which was becoming overbearing.
November 12, 2007
India. Hot, hot, sandy, dirty, dusty. Eucalyptus, coconut-banana, exhaust, open sewer under bridge. Delicious everything -- soft breads, honey sweets, curries, sour yogurt, fruits. Overflowing. Loud, chaotic, peaceful. Busy, buggy, sticky, bright, full. Kids barefoot, naked, dirty. Smiles. Old men starving. Women beautiful in orange. In pink, blue, green, gold, purple, red, yellow. Rags, injuries. Kids with gold necklaces and silverbell anklets. Dying dogs. Men asleep or already dead on the sidewalk. Families on the dirt. Their sheets on the dirt. A beach for walking. Beautiful things. Thatch roofed huts. Cows crossing a bypass. Skin shades white to black. A man's bus, a woman's. Eyes black and starving, eyes fat -- all staring. All of that, all at once.
Eleven days at sea will make a person crazy. Sockwrestling, Halloween parties (I was a tree, Emily was my squirrel, Zach was my bird, Mike & Lindsay were frat/sorority dude/chick, Benjamin was Waldo, Zoya was a gypsy, Becky was Josh, Margo was Tiger Lily, Alan was Dr. Cecil...), Sea Olympics, dancing on the deck...
We rode the gentle Suez our last day before docking in Alexandria, Egypt. To our right, the Sinai Peninsula, to our left, the Egyptian desert. Like a caravan of Thai elephants (poor elephants in Thailand...), the ships sat single-file on the northward pulling current spilling into the Mediterranean Sea, which is now rocking and throwing our ship like the Pacific did before Hawaii. Before that, India. After that, Egypt. Now, we're almost in Turkey.
Appropriately, superstition makes its entrance. I lose three things: my umbrella (of course it rains nearly every day), an earring (which, according to my Balkan ship sister, means I'll return to Istanbul), and my glasses. (Note: don't tuck semi-valuables in flowy scarf.) The first photo taken of me in front of the modern art sign is the last I'll see of all three. That morning, we docked in Istanbul, a city bridging two continents, the day after my 22nd birthday, in the chill and damp of a far too long absent autumn. We returned to a moderate climate just in time to celebrate.
I've been here for a while and yet I struggled to wrap my mind around the geography and partitioning of the United Kingdom. I live in London... No, I live in Central London, which is not Greater London. London is the capital of England, which is a nation or not a nation because it is a part of the U.K. Then comes the rest, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Not all of Ireland. But hold on. They all have their own rugby teams that compete internationally and rival each other as if they were separate nations. Wales even has its own indigenous language. It's all right. As long as I understand that they are all under Great Britain or the U.K., I'm good. Wait, the U.K. is a part of Europe right? Now that was just ignorant. I know they're a part of Europe. I bet you were asking the same question though. Lol.
November 14, 2007
Photos from the trip to Sevilla.
November 16, 2007
The weather was perfect, cool air, grey fall sky, yellow leaves...
Thanks to packages from home, new friends, and the colder weather, many of the things that I was missing in the beginning of the semester are no longer a problem.
November 17, 2007
After being asked directions several times by people in London, and I myself having no idea where I was, it is obvious that there are a lot of visitors and tourists in London. This, in conjunction with the crazy statistics we learned about the number of visitors in London on any given day and season. There is obviously a huge diversity that is unique to London. I live in D.C. and we have a lot of visitors -- still not as much and not as much diversity, and if there is, it is separated. Aside from visitors in London, its citizens are also very diverse. I've run into so many different people here form different corners of the Earth. The national diversity here is colossal and I think that such diversity is awesome.
November 20, 2007
What are the French thankful for? Surely not the new President Nicolas Sarkozy. For the past week, the French rail lines (also known as SNCF) have been crippled by a nationwide strike. During Sarkozy's campaign, he promised to afford a number of incentives to the citizens employed by SNCF. What happens in France when a politician doesn't follow through with what he has promised? You guessed it. STRIKE.
November 27, 2007
A few chilly days in one of the most visually stunning places in the world: rocky mountain hikes, stony beachside walks, long meals of local cheese and bread and soup, climbs on forts and castles and towers centuries old, interaction with people as cold as the breeze from snow topped mountains who eventually welcomed us with sweet wine and kisses. We all loved what we saw of Croatia, even if it meant nearly freezing to death for some of us (especially Zach, who, without money, was saved from sleeping in the snow by a benevolent stone-hard-faced hotel owner) or breaking into mountain huts (Paige, Emily, Jake and almost me). The parks are closed, we found out or traveling far for others (10 hours to Zagreb for Jesse and Ben.) For me, it was two "cities," Dubrovnik and Split, whose season is not mid-November, but the rest of the year.
November 28, 2007
So it seems I never cease when it comes to leaving Beijing. I love the city (could definitely do without the smog and spitting citizens though) but when plane and trains tickets range from $15 to a couple hundred the opportunities are endless. Therefore, I went off with a few friends on a long weekend that turned into more of a week (skipping classes is permitted, of course) to the province of Yinnan, which borders Myanmar, Laos, Tibet, Sichuan, and a couple of other provinces in the south of China. This place is incredible in so many aspects ranging from the diversity of minority groups to the climate which allows a variety of exotic fruits to grace every street corner.
November 29, 2007
After a whirlwind of airports, planes, and grumpy customs officials, I've made it back home!