Jordan goes to Jordan

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                The universities decided to cut our trip a few days short due to the ongoing tensions in Israel and while many were sad to leave I'm sure we were already to go home.   So early yesterday morning we boarded a bus and were escorted to the border which was about two hours away. Once we crossed the border we spent a few hours getting through customs and border control then we met another escort who traveled with us to Amman where we are to catch our flights. Jordan has a much harsher desert climate than Israel does, as we traveled through the towns and small cities we were surrounded by mountains of sand and at times it would cover the roads for kilometers. It took several hours before we reached our airport hotel, which is easily one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in. Our rooms are great and for dinner we were treated with some of the best Middle Eastern foods and desserts we've had since our arrival. Sadly, after dinner some of us were scheduled on early flights some of which left around midnight. There were some emotional goodbyes but those who stayed hung out one last night before our trip finally comes to an end. 

Ready. Set. Let go...!

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Off to B.A. copy.pdf

I'm sitting in an international airport alone, waiting to get on a flight that will take me to another CONTINENT. Wow. That's pretty incredible.

 This trip is two years in the making, and it's finally here. I'm about to study in another country, live with two strangers, and intern for a foreign company. ...Sorry if I'm sounding redundant... I just can't wrap my head around it.

 Somehow, I managed to pack my life into two suitcases...overweight though they may be. Now that I've handed them over, I finally have some time to reflect on how I ended up here.

 Coming to college, I didn't know what I wanted to major in or even what student org.s I wanted to join. The only thing about which I was adamant was studying abroad. 

 I've always seemed to have an affinity for other cultures. Just take a look at the beautiful rainbow that comprises my friend circle, and you'll know exactly what I mean. I'm passionate about connecting with others, and I think the fundamental way to do so is to speak the same language and experience their culture. 

I've been studying Spanish since 8th grade, so this journey is a leap toward my middle school goal of fluency and understanding. While my language skills are a bit rusty, my determination is stronger than ever. 

For a delayed introduction...I'm a rising Junior double majoring in Marketing and Broadcast Journalism with minors in Spanish and International Business. I'll be participating in the Advanced Spanish Immersion program in the hope of honing my Spanish-speaking skills. When I'm not dreaming about adventures around the world, I'm either singing, acting, or... planning. I'm kind of a control freak, so this trip is completely out of my comfort zone!

I don't know exactly what classes I'll be taking or even when I'll be returning to the states, but I'm actually excited by that. For once in my life, I'm ready to relinquish control. 

So, without further adieu, it's time to say:

Ready. Set. Let go...!



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With the ban of US Flights and other international flights arriving and departing Israel, Penn State and the other schools associated with the Tel Akko Total Archaeology Field School have decided to evacuate students from the country. Most of us were originally scheduled to fly out of the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. However, with the landing of the missile a mile away from the airport, we will now be escorted to Jordan instead to catch a flight to New York. Our entire excavation was wrapped up Wednesday afternoon and we will be leaving early tomorrow morning to cross the Jordan-Israel border. Once we arrive we will stay in a hotel until our flight is scheduled to depart. I am saddened by our earlier departure especially since we were so close to finishing the dig but this is for the best. I would also like to mention once again that we have been relatively safe from any rocket fire since the conflict begin.
While this is a very unfortunate event, I am happy to travel to Jordan. Since I share the same name with country and river I am somewhat excited to say that I have actually been there, however I do wish it were under much better circumstances. The decision to send us to Jordan seems to have been an all-day affair as we were not informed until later in the day that we were being evacuated. While some embraced the change, others were uncomfortable and unhappy with the decision. However the decision has been made and tomorrow morning we will be taking an unexpected trip to another Middle Eastern country. To my friends and family I assure you that I am very safe at the moment and I cannot wait to tell you of my adventure. I will see you soon.

Home Stretch

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So here we are in the final week of field school. Survey is over and I'm back in my original excavation unit. It's a little weird jumping back into the excavation pits after being away for the last few weeks and I have to get use to leveling out the dirt as I dig again. However I won't have much time because we're only digging for another day or two before we close up the excavation. I'm somewhat torn about heading home, I would love to stay here for maybe one more week to see a few more of the archaeological sites around the country and maybe even go to Jerusalem. On the other hand I'm ready to go home and sleep in for the next month before heading back to Penn State for the fall and spring semesters.                

  This past weekend we headed down to the beautiful coastal city of Caesarea after touring the University Of Haifa Museum and the Carmel Caves, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site between Haifa and Caesarea. Haifa is a beautiful city and its position on the mountains allow for stunning views of the Mediterranean and the Akko/Haifa Bay which can also be seen from the University Of Haifa Museum. In fact without a doubt I have never been in a museum with such a stunning backdrop provided for the exhibits.

After touring the museum we drove about a half hour to the Carmel Caves before heading down to Caesarea. The Carmel Caves are home to some of the oldest prehistoric tool production sites in the world, we even were allowed to explore one of the caves as well as check out some of the ancient tools. Then we headed down the coast to Caesarea which was built for Caesar Augustus by King Herod. After entering the city we walked into a large open air theatre where a path led us to a large amphitheater where chariot races were held and King Herod's pool which basically sits in the Mediterranean. Tourist are allowed to walk in the pool while watching as the waves of the sea crash against the last bit of remaining structure a few feet away. Next we toured some of the street ruins before grabbing a bite to eat and slowly making your way out of the city. Walking through Caesarea felt like walking through a dream, no matter where you look there's a picturesque scene a few feet away and as the day slipped by and the sun begin to set over the horizon of the sea, the city became even more beautiful. Finally we made one more stop at a beach about five minutes away where an aqueduct that carried water into the city stood in the sand. Beachgoers of all ages were climbing on top of ruin to take pictures as the sun set,  most of us were pretty tired by then but we managed to climb on top before heading back to Akko. This was by far my favorite field trip here in Akko and one I hope to make again in the future.

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I know I haven't blogged practically anything yet because I keep forgetting but I am going to make it up on the day right before I go back to the states. So I was practically jetlagged for a week, I didn't sleep until 4am and woke up early for class. Once I start to get used to this school, I have to leave already. One session is so short here, I wish I had more time to travel but it has been a good experience. Fun fact is that there are cows right behind my building, just hanging out in the field. This little campus makes me realize how much I love penn state. Nothing is comparable to that beautiful campus. I'm actually very sad that I missed arts fest and one of my best friends 21st birthday. Everybody seemed to have came back from abroad and reunited over the weekend. I am also grateful for PSU because all food places close here around 8pm and there's nothing in walking distance, so somehow I've been surviving on groceries that I only bought the first week. I miss how easily it was to get food. How is it possible that I still have so much pasta left when I barely bought any?! So this whole summer session with the childhood social development class had me all stressed out for awhile. We have presentations and the final essay that's worth 50% of my grade. I was just concerned because I haven't had to do this kind of work for a non-science class for so long. So I've been frantically trying to start everything early and over worrying that I might be headed in the wrong direction. 

So let's start with the first weekend I went out to London. It was amazing and everything I expected it to be. It's a city that I would enjoy to live in, it reminds me so much of New York City. What was surprising was that it was actually more crowded than I thought it would be. It was a true struggle fighting through the crowd, I had to pull some New Yorker moments. We trekked around the city and the first place we went to was Buckingham Palace, I didn't know what the whole fuss was about cause apparently the changing of guards happens everyday. It was super crowded and it was like fighting war just trying to see anything. Then it started to rain ... (Who's surprised, it's England). Then we went off to see the London Eye and Big Ben. London is such a gorgeous city, this is how I know I am a city girl. Then, we went on a river boat cruise, and the architecture of the city was amazing. We went off to London's chinatown and got a bite there, it's so small compared to New York but I've been told it is the larger ones of Europe.

London Eye
Big Ben

Halfway Point

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As we start week three in Israel and Gaza enters their 8th day of conflict. If things escalate any further it is possible that our excavation will be forced to close and we will return home earlier than expected. Earlier today I heard that Egypt had issued a ceasefire to which Israel had accepted but Gaza refused. This morning we also saw a fighter jet and we also received news that a Haifa, which sits directly across the bay from us, had a siren scare. This is the second time I know of that Haifa was fired at. Due to the conflict the Tel Akko Archaeology Program is one of a small number of excavations still going on in Israel at this moment. We have been told that we should be safe but we have gone over the procedure just in case we hear sirens. All of us are now paying close attention to any news we can find about what's going on in the south. Some members of our staff are in contact with people who are also keeping a close eye on the situation so we are very well informed.

                In other news, for the last two weeks I have been part of the survey team, which checks some of the surrounding areas  of the mean excavation area for possible artifacts and ancient features. A few days ago one of us found a small group of stones at the bottom of a hill, now other team members and I are finding more of the stones along a flat area and we now think it might be an ancient road. It has also been suggested that part of the hill may actually be covering a Persian Period gate. While we haven't uncovered the gate yet, a lot of our staff are excited about our possible find as it could help explain why a large portion of our mound. Originally it was thought the British may have been responsible for taking out a large portion of the site  but if the gate is there it would change the perceived chronology of the site.  It'll be interesting to see if there is actually a gate under there but it could be a while before a full excavation takes place there.           

                Plus, doing survey is a good workout. We're constantly moving around and each day we have to walk up and down a hill while hauling tool and buckets of pottery. Some of us have even started to call the survey team the "Survey Corp." because of the extra digging. Instead of digging  in one place we dig a bunch of sample holes and once we finish we move on to the next one. Though sometimes we may be selected to use a machine to record GPS coordinates which can take all day and you don't dig any holes, but each person only does that about once a week. While survey is actually kind of fun since we get to explore some of the site a little more, it can be annoying with all the weeds and thorns scattered around. Plus their all sorts of wildlife, bees are a constant problem because they like to land inside your holes. One day last week a walked away from my hole for a few seconds and when I came back about  five bees were walking around inside. We also see a lot of legless lizards, spiders and beetles. Yesterday someone saw a scorpion and today I found a dead snake. However, the worst apart about survey are the plants because their thorns stick you in the leg as you walk through the field and no matter how lightly you step they still get you.

                Well, that's if for now. I'll try to post more often as the week goes on especially since we could be cancelled. While there have been a lot of unfortunate events over the last few days I'm still glad I came to Israel. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I hope things work out. So until next time!      


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Germany has done it! They can officially add a fourth star to their national jerseys and I was in the heart of Berlin to witness it. The only way I can explain the atmosphere is comparing it to a football weekend at Dear Old State: 
-the atmosphere was electric (literally it was pouring rain with ridiculous thunder and lightning storms) 
-every citizen of Berlin that I saw was decked out in black, red and gold 
-facepaint, flags, banners, soccer scarves and the like were being sported everywhere I turned 
-no one was in a bad mood, they were all too nervous to be 

So it was exactly like a football weekend at Penn State, except this time, the entire world was watching and it was for national pride that the Germany team played. 

Normally I try to include one or two pictures with a post to bring you all with me, but there was something about last night that didn't permit pictures. No matter how excited everyone was, how crazy their outfits were or how many fire works were let off, no one was taking pictures. They were all simply there. So I followed suit and put down my phone and was just here in Berlin during the final game of the 2014 World Cup. I didn't regret any of it. I got to talk to some Germans who were explaining the rules and intricacies of the game to me and people accepted the group of us that weren't on our phones as one of their own, just being curious about the game. 

This taught me something about passion. How many places do you go and you see people glued to their phone screens?: museums, sporting events, parties? I think an appropriate answer would be a great majority. What I felt last night wasn't about being connected to the internet or any of my social media outlets, it was about connecting with the raging heartbeat that had arisen from Berlin. So this fall when I stand in Beaver Stadium for the final time as a student, I won't be on my phone, I won't be trying to capture the moment on camera, I will just be. 

Until Next Time, 
Casey R 

Archaeological Field Trips in Israel

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 Sorry, I've been a little behind on my blog entries, I think I'm going to make two this weekend with this being the first. With the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict our trip to Jerusalem was postponed until the end of the month so last week we traveled to the Sea of Galilee. We were going to take a trip to Caesara today but it was canceled since it's in the Gaza Strip rocket range. We're pretty safe here in Akko since we are so far north, we are just outside of the attack range. Haifa, which has reported being targeted can be seen across the bay from us, but that seems to be the limit of attacks. 

 Our trip last week composed of several different sites, first there was Zippori, then to a Tabgha where Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying bread and fish and the Church of the Primacy of Peter on the Sea of Galilee, next we went to Capernaum famous for being the location of one of Jesus' healing miracles as well as being condemned by Jesus for not following his teachings, then finally to Chorazin which is an infamous town for also being supposedly condemned. Galilee is full of history and stories from the bible, the Roman and Byzantine Periods, as well as the Crusades. We spent most of the day exploring the sites and taking pictures. We even got to stick our feet in the Sea of Galilee which is where Jesus was reported to have walked on water and during our visit in Zippori we accidentally walked into a bar-mitzvah in ancient synagogue.

In short it was an interesting trip. Religious people from all over the world take pilgrimages to the region each year. Many of the signs giving directions to each site we're written in dozens of languages and while we were eating lunch by the Sea of Galilee and a group of Spanish speaking priest were reading passages out loud in small sitting area.

The next day we received our first official tour of Akko's Old City. We were escorted through Crusader Tunnels, ancient buildings, busy Middle Eastern market places and through small alleyways and streets. All while learning the history of the city as it has existed here on the shore of the Levant for around 5000 years.


But what's even more interesting about Akko in my opinion is that the city is mixed with people of all three major religions. While there was a protest earlier this week against the Israeli State, it remained peaceful. However we're staying constantly updated about the conflicts that are happening in the south and we've gone over what we should do in case anything happens. So until next time!


Cheerio for Now!

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So, I left London, and now I'm back in Pittsburgh. The entire trip to London was extremely fun, and I'm glad I went. It was a great time, I had some great times with the people I went with, I saw a lot of cool things, and I went to a lot of cool places I had never seen before. I really enjoyed it, and I hope if you've ever thought about going to London, then reading my blogs has informed your opinion at some level, allowing you to further consider the prospect of going and seeing some really cool things. Because, make no mistake, going to London for a month is a huge commitment that requires time and effort, and knowing that if the most important thing you can do before you go. Sure, there'll be fun things to do once you get there, but it's very important that you have a plan.

But before I let this blog go for now, I have to get a wall of text off my chest and tell you about the ordeal I went through to get back to Pittsburgh, because it could happen to anyone. And man, was it an ordeal.

From Russell Square, me and eight of the people I stayed with got on the Tube to the Airport, in a repeat of the way we came to London. That wasn't the ordeal, though, because we just rode the train straight there and got our boarding passes and everything in order. Security was a big deal, because it was really confusing which way we should go, because the lines are a jagged mishmash of ropes telling you where to go, when actually you should be over there, not there.

But security wasn't an ordeal, because the security guard waved us over to where we should be, and that was sorted out. We waited for a while for our plane to decide what gate it was going to go to, but that wasn't an ordeal because there's a ton of shops and restaurants in the airport as well as a children's playplace and a foosball table (the latter of which I played with Hunter whiel we were waiting.) So far, everything was going according to plan. We got to our plane's terminal, boarded, and flew all the way back to Philadelphia. I watched three separate movies on the flight, so that wasn't an ordeal at all, in fact, the flight was quite smooth.

In Philadelphia, the nine of us who had flown over split up, and went to our separate flights and/or buses and/or cars. The true ordeal was, in fact, getting onto my flight to Pittsburgh, taking a nap, waking up from the nap to find out we hadn't even taken off yet due to mechanical failure, getting off the plane to get onto a new plane at another gate, and getting to that gate only to find that the plane wasn't going to land yet because of the weather, but that it was also going to another gate, and going to that gate and learning that the plane would not be taking off today because it had gotten too late in the evening. So...I stayed a night in Philadelphia.

It was weird even having to bug the US Airways employees to get me a hotel room that I could sleep in, because you'd think they'd have some available. However, a bunch of flights had gotten canceled because of weather that day, so they had already promised rooms to a lot of people, and only by asking more hotels if they could bring in more people would they be able to accomodate any of us.

So, I got to stay in a really nice hotel in Philly, and it was great, for the one night it lasted. But I was tired anyways and it was about 2 in the morning by the time I got into the room, so I didn't get to enjoy it that much.

The other ordeal I had was the fact that I wasn't guaranteed a seat on a flight to Pittsburgh the next day, because of the aforementioned other people who had also stayed the night. My best bet was to catch a flight from Philly to Cleveland, and have my parents pick me up there, but I just wanted to get home already. So, I got a seat on a flight to Cleveland, but I asked to be put on the standby list for flights to Pittsburgh. Now, I don't know if you know what standby means, but they put you on a list and if there's any unclaimed seats on a plane, they fill them up with people on the standby list. Since the first flight to Pittsburgh in the morning was canceled, I was told it might be a long shot to get home. But, what ended up happening was I stayed for one flight at 11:30, and my name wasn't called on the list, so I went to the next gate where a flight to Pittsburgh was going to leave, and then they called my name, and so I made the flight to Pittsburgh by getting the second to last seat on the plane, and in first class no less!

And so ends my written experience traveling on Study Abroad. I had fun, and I hope you did as well!

Interesting 1st Week

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So the last few days have been really busy, in fact we didn't start excavating until this morning. After last year's excavation the site was filled in with dirt and sandbags to cover the material and keep it preserved and during this time weeds grew all over the main excavation site so we've spent most of this week cleaning up. While some of the cleaning can get pretty tedious there have been some plenty eventful moments.

We received a tour of the tell Monday morning and learned some of the history of the previous excavations which extend back a few decades. While also learned about the history of the site itself which has played a huge part in several different eras and empires such as serving as main port city for the Persian Empire (539-323 BCE) before Alexander the Great claimed the area in 332 BCE. Then we spent the rest of the day and Tuesday cleaning the site.

On Wednesday we continued our cleanup and removed the sand bags from the previous season. While doing this we encountered all sorts of wild life living in the holes scattered throughout the site. One group encountered about 7-10 scorpions, while our group only saw one (it was huge!), several large grasshoppers and a few frogs or toads. There was even a small hive in one of the units.

However the highlight of the day was a snake that was in the unit I'll be working in for the next few weeks. A few people had spotted it earlier before it disappeared for about a half hour. It made an incredible return while me and another member of the team were removing the sand bags in the area. I saw the tail as soon as I lifted one of the bags and alerted everyone by yelling "snake!" As soon as I finished, it darted from underneath the sand bags and slithered through the site. It was a good four to six feet long and the first time I've ever encountered a live snake in the wild. I actually like snakes but it was still a big surprise and I wish I could have gotten a picture.

Yesterday, Thursday was more of the same. The site looked a lot better and the only wild life I remember seeing was a small baby scorpion that scattered into a hole. Some people actually started to excavate sometime after breakfast on the site but we continued to clean in my unit.

Then finally, today, July 4th I got my first experience in excavation and it's a little harder than imagined. We have to take the layers of dirt and stratigraphy away in a layer at a time, which usually means digging in even centimeters. My layers were pretty uneven and I went a little too deep into the dirt at times so I started to get frustrated. It's going to take some practice to learn how to even out layers and dig the correct amount. I'm pretty determined though, especially when it comes to Anthropology and Archaeology so I'm a little anxious to get back to digging after the weekend. Also weird fact of the day, when digging if you encounter animal bone (which is usually what you find in the field, if human remains are found the excavation has to stop) if you place it lightly on your tongue it should stick, if not then it's a rock.

Tomorrow we're going on field trip to Galilee, we were supposed to go to Jerusalem but tensions are high in the city at the moment so it's been postponed until our last trip of the season. Sunday we go on another to the Crusader Tunnels that run under the Old City here in Akko. I'll be taking as many pictures as possible so stay posted!


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