¡Hola España!

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So, I'm a Spanish minor.  I know what you're probably thinking: if you study Spanish, why are you in Austria? Gosh, you just can't ask people why they're in Austria! Also, I thought if there is any time to learn a new language, it's when I'm young and living in a country that speaks that language.  So, I decided I wanted to learn German and then off I went to Austria.

Thankfully, I carved some time out of my busy schedule to travel to Barcelona with my roommate.  It was so exciting to finally be in a foreign country where I spoke the language.  I was so surprised how natural it sounded to me! Unlike German, where it takes a lot of time for me to form complete sentences in a conversation, Spanish was just rolling off my tongue as naturally as ever.

Of course, I didn't just wander around and speak Spanish while we were in Barcelona.  My roommate and I saw the most amazing sights, like La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell.  We also found ourselves sipping on lots of café con leche and eating tapas!

 

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I found Spain to be the complete opposite of Austria.  In Spain, the culture seemed more open and lively.  In Austria, and especially in Vienna, it takes time for people to warm up and trust a stranger.  I also found Barcelona to be a very relaxing, chilled out city.  In Vienna, being on time and getting where you need to be fast is the cultural norm.  But in Barcelona, people enjoyed their siestas and took their time in doing everything.  Personally, I like Vienna's way of doing things.  I'm from the New York City area; you can't slow down for nothing there.  But, Barcelona provided me with a very relaxing and warm weekend.  I hope to return there soon again!

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Budapest!

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Midterms was a stressful and busy week here in Austria, so for surviving all our exams, a few of my friends and I took the train to Budapest.  Austria is centrally located in Europe, which makes it quite easy to travel.  In just three hours on a train or in a car, one can reach more than 5 countries! We were there for three days and I can't believe we packed so much into such a short time.  The day we arrived, we feasted on Hungarian food, toured the city by foot, and then attended an awesome concert on a barge on the Danube!

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The next day, we soaked in outdoor Hungarian baths for a few hours.  It was very soothing and the perfect end to the midterm week.  After the baths, the sun had almost gone down, so I saw most of the city by night.  It was a new type of touring for me.  Usually, I get up early and go to bed early so I can visit all the places I need to during the day.  But, visiting monuments at night wasn't so bad! There were fewer crowds and my friends and I had a lot of fun discovering Budapest by night.

The Friday we were there was also Halloween! Halloween is my favorite holiday, but it's not as big in Europe as in the United States.  Still, my friends and I donned costumes and bravely set out Halloween night to show everyone how "monstrous" we can be.

This trip was my first trip without my program and it went very smoothly.  Thankfully, I have easy-going friends who know how to travel.  With them, any place in the world can be fun!

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Elektrafied: My Trip to the Teatro

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Wow. I still have "Orest! Orest!" ringing in my ears. Last night, I finally saw an opera in the world-renowned Teatro Colón. National Geographic ranks Buenos Aires's crowning jewel as the third best opera house in the world. Countless famous musicians have corroborated this assertion, commenting on the quality of its acoustics. A group of 8 of us from my program decided it was time for us to be a little cultured and bought tickets to Elektra, a German opera based on Greek mythology. Boy, did my ears get a workout. Wikipedia says that the role of Elektra is one of the most difficult pieces to perform in the dramatic soprano repertoire, and I definitely understand why. She does. not. stop. From the opening of the opera to its close 90 minutes later, the singer was trilling through the entire range of her vocal chords, hitting piercingly high notes complemented by warmer low tones. The woman who played her sister, Chrysothemis, was also fantastic. I heard her loud and clear over the thundering orchestra.

 

I just need to take a moment to comment on the orchestra. They were absolutely fantastic. Their sound filled the entire room and they flawlessly captured every mood of this tragic piece. I also had a great view of the musicians up in the nosebleed section, which was especially cool.

 

Back to the opera: I have always wanted to attend an opera, since I've sung a few operatic pieces in my voice lessons a few years back. But, I never seized the opportunity. Well, there was no excuse for leaving Buenos Aires without having seen an opera in Teatro Colón (with tickets being around $8), so I am so glad I made it a point to go. I was standing in the last row the whole time, but hey, my wallet was happy.

 

Walking into the glittering room of bright lights, velvet curtains, and intricate murals, I immediately felt like I was living in a dream. How many 20-year-olds have seen a famous opera?! So freakin' exciting. It was truly surreal. Before the opera started, I took a few moments to myself to say a little prayer of thanks for this opportunity and waited with bated breath for the lights to dim and the curtains to open.

 

I can't say that Elektra has converted me into an opera fanatic, but I am definitely happy that I went and plan to go to another in the future. Maybe one that's a little lighter, like an Italian romance. In regards to the quality of the theater, it wasn't quite what I expected. To be completely honest, I wasn't overwhelmingly impressed by the acoustics. It was often difficult to hear the opera singers, since they didn't have microphones.  The orchestra just overpowered them. But, it's highly possible that that's because of where we were standing. I'm not sure. I wish I could see another performance there for comparison. Regardless, it was an incredible experience, and I'm thrilled that I put aside the books for a moment and took advantage of this beautiful city in my last 19 DAYS!!

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Serengeti Safaris--Week 8

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Wednesday wasn't too exciting. I worked on and turned in my Swahili paper. That is all!

Thursday, we briefed for our expedition. My directed research (DR) group also met to discuss the details of our research and get our research draft back.

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Friday was unbelievable. We were introduced to the national park where the largest land migration takes place with 1.4 million white-bearded wildebeest, 400,000 Thomson's gazelle, and 200,000 common zebras. The wildebeest migration is considered one of seven Africa's Natural Wonders of the World. The park is also home to over 3,000 lions. We left Moyo Hill at 7:30 AM, and journeyed through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to reach Serengeti National Park. The ride to the park was about 4.5 hours long on with 4 hours on very bumpy non-paved roads, which we would soon find out would cause problems for us later in the trip. We stayed at Camp Nguchiro, which means mongoose in Swahili. We did a game drive on our way into the park. Our first stop was the Nabi Gate, where we ate lunch, paid and proceeded through to Serengeti National Park. Here, there was also a massive Marabou stork, which I got very close too, but not on purpose because I didn't see it at first. It seemed used to people though. It was extremely relaxed though. Also, there were beautiful metallic red and blue lizards, a few sly mice wondering in the rocks, and many birds scavenging the area. We went on our way through Nabi Gate and onward to the grassy plains and kopjis. Thomson's gazelles were everywhere. Wildebeests and zebras crossed the bumpy, dirt roads ahead of us. They were amazing to watch. The dust streaming behind their speeding bodies. We drove to the kopjis, where we first spotted an impala hiding in the shade of a small kopji with a tall bush growing underneath. Then a collared female lion was seen resting high upon the rocks, watching over the sunny landscape. We drove to the other side of the kopji and also saw a young male lion settled on the rocks under and Acacia. We continued into the park. Suddenly, the dust began to settle due to the light rains. The sky was dark, but we continued on, with our heads still stuck out the roof of the Land Cruiser. A hippo was spotted standing half out of water. This was the first time I saw a hippo even close to out of water. There was around 30 hippos, some were sleeping, some were rolling on their backs or moving about in the water. Nearby, a Marabou stork sat in a tree above the road. I looked over to see nearly 20 more storks perched in a snag. We saw reedbuck, a tawny eagle, a dark chanting goshawk, lilac breasted rollers, red-necked francolin, dik-dik, and a white-browed coucal perched on the top of a shrub with its reddish-brown wings spread out. It began raining. When we got to our camp, most things were wet, and we set up our tent while it was raining, which was slightly hectic since the tents we have here are like massive military tents. Giraffes were also walking through the area when we were putting our tents up. :) Overall, the camp was amazing. At night, we heard so many animals from hyenas to cape buffalos to lions. Part of the wildebeest migration was also hanging around our camp. :) We saw zebras, giraffes, elephants, baboons, impala, hyenas, cape buffalos, and wildebeest just at our camp. At night, we caught some glimpses of hyena eyes using our flashlights and saw cape buffalo, impala, and wildebeest around too. It was slightly scary to see and hear the hyenas so close to us, but it was also absolutely awesome. 

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The park was so green and beautiful. Way greener than what we have been use to seeing while in Tanzania. We just ended up getting lucky, because where we were in the park, it was where the rains currently were, which meant we had the chance to see a very significant portion of the wildebeest migration. The next few days were amazing. I enjoyed seeing large groups of wildebeest. I loved when lines of them would stop traffic, so that they could run across the road. Often, if a car cut them off, they would just wait for traffic to pass, so that they could continue. But sometimes, we noticed them getting flustered when cars cut them off. Almost like a "Oh my gosh, where's the line!? Where do I go?" kind of flustered. It's very funny to watch, because sometimes they'll try to run further up to get around the cars, almost like ants. They're great to watch, and honestly my favorite animals to observe in groups. They're very entertaining when they run, because sometimes they'll 'spaz' out when they are forced to run across the road. They'll start kicking their feet and throwing their body around, almost like they are practicing ways to avoid predators or kick attacking predators off of them. Wildebeest are awesome!



Saturday, day 2 in Serengeti was great as well! We began our morning early with a packed lunch and a bird identification list at 6:30 AM. We identified close to 50 species of birds, and struggled with identifying some smaller, brown birds. Did see my first Long-crested eagle though! Pretty awesome! Later in the morning, we began tourist observations. We had to observe number of cars watching certain wildlife species and for how long. Most importantly though, I saw my first cheetah!! The male cheetah was standing in the grass on the left side of the car and was extremely vigilant. We finally noticed that he had been eating something, at first I though it looked like the rump of a warthog, but later, we'd find out we were wrong. After watching for about 25 minutes, we spotted a second cheetah on the right side of the road, behind some trees and tall grass. Immediately, it began running straight down the right side in the grassy land. At this point, there had been 35 cars observing these two cheetahs. The 2nd male cheetah had to be looking for somewhere to cross the road when he began running straight down the right side. It was amazing. He came closer and closer to the road and crossed about 8-10 cars behind us, but ran up the left side of the road past us. He ran directly to the kill and began eating. We pulled up across from him, about 30 meters away. His powerful jaw tugging away at the meat pulled the legs of the animal up into the air. It was a young wildebeest. Both brothers had successfully brought down a young wildbeest. Both of their faces were covered in blood, even far before we noticed either of the eating. Truly amazing to see. Cheetahs are beautiful. No doubt about it. I didn't want to leave the site where these two beautiful animals were observed. When we were driving along a row of trees, we spotted a small impala killed by a leopard in the crown of a sausage tree. It was very eerie, yet super awesome to see! There was even a scratch below the left eye of the impala. Leopards place there food in trees. They're storing the food to eat it later on. We had to head back to camp, so we weren't able to stay and wait for a cat to come by and take its meal out of the tree, unfortunately. We did, however, go back after lunch.. four hours later.. and guess what..? That impala was gone! The cat had come and taken it while we were gone. At 1, we had a guest lecture at the visitor center in the park. The visitor center was very nice. When we arrived, the first thing I spotted was the bird of prey sitting on the tall kopje. The first thought I had was that it was a type of chantting goshawk and to my surprise, I found out I was right.. even before I checked my bird identification guide. A dark chanting goshawk. The next thing I saw was an extremely lazy and chubby hyrax laying on the sidewalk of the visitor center for everyone to see.. so naturally, we had to take a picture with it! I explored the kopje interactive boardwalk they had then continued on to the building where our lecture on Serengeti National Park was held. We learned a little about the park and challenges within the park, etc. Afterwards, we continued with the game drive and our assignments--tourist observations and predator-prey observations. We were watching tourists to see how long they spent watching certain birds or animals to show the importance of each animal to tourists. Later on, we came across two subadult male lions walking through tall green riverine vegetation. They popped out on the other side and laid down together. A second car full of SFS came through and tried to make it through a huge muddy/watery dip, but just ended up getting stuck. In the end, not our car, but a separate SFS car ended up pulling the stuck one out. It was quite interesting to watch. In the evening, we came across two leopards, a male and a female. They were on the ground lying within the grassland. It was very hard to see them at times. Sometimes you could only make out leopard patterns through the grass. It turns out that these two beauties were mating! It was hard to see but we could tell that they were. Leopards are normally solitary unless they are mating or when the mother is with her cub(s). So, this was amazing to see! I had wish they would have been out in the open a little more, but hey, they need they're privacy! Serengeti could always use more leopards.

Sunday was the first day of our bird species counts. Some birds we came across was a Pallid harrier, lilac-breasted roller, 2 Tawny eagles, brown parrots, and many others. We also continued observing tourists and carnivores. We saw black-backed jackals carrying a guineafowl, and came to the conclusion that either they killed the guineafowl and the tawny eagles were trying to take the kill from the jackals or the tawny eagles killed the guineafowl and the jackals took it from the eagles. It's called kleptoparasitism when one animal steals food from a different animal. We also saw the same pair of leopards mating on the ground again. We heard them making noises and moving around in the tall grass too. Also, in the morning, 1 cheetah was spotted eating what looks like the butt of a warthog, but we figure out that it is a small wildebeest when we were able to pull up to the carcus and where the animals were eating. I say animals, because a second cheetah was spotted across the dirt road. It was walking and then began running south of the direction of the cars. Meanwhile, 30+ cars are lined up, he ran in-between cars further back behind us. He ran over to the kill, next to his brother and begins eating, where his face once again has fresh blood on it, just like his brother. Awesome site to see. Especially, since these are my first cheetahs ever!! :)


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Monday, we had plans for a lecture in the morning from the lead of Frankfurt Zoological Society on what they are responsible for and what research they conduct in the park. After we left the lecture, we were driving slowly. I looked back and their was a small airplane coming in to land. Kioko, our professor noticed it and stopped so we could watch it. It literally flew RIGHT over our heads and landed right afterwards. It was actually pretty amazing!! A little later, we stopped to look at a group of spotted hyenas including young ones laying under a tree. We drove a little further and heard this bang sound. We looked forward and our entire tire was rolling across the Serengeti plains. We all immediately sat down, but everything was ok. We watched the tire roll for nearly 300 meters when two spotted hyenas jumped up and took off. The tire was coming directly for them. I have to admit it was hilarious. The hyenas face was like "oh crap!!" when it saw the tire coming straight at it. It rolled across the plains and right into a large puddle where one hyena was sleeping (and almost got ran over by a tire). We got to get out of the car, while they put a new tire on. I found a jaw bone and the horn of a wildebeest while we were out of the car. We went for a game drive and saw cheetahs! One was in the distance sitting on a dirt mound. We drove a few more kilometers and saw two male cheetahs crossing the dirt road together.. very close to us! I got some pictures of the two of them together. They are so beautiful. In the background 400 meters away were large herds of wildebeest running through behind the tree line. The cheetahs walked to the tree line and sat down, where we thought they would begin hunting. Although, it takes them a while to select their prey, so we never saw them go after a wildebeest, but we assumed that was their idea. Earlier, we also faintly saw a leopard laying in a tree. It was camouflaged very well, but you could see its spots and sometimes its ears! Later, we saw the mating leopards again, but on the opposite side, so, I had an even harder time finding them. They were in the grass still. Before we arrived, they were up in a sausage tree together, but we missed them coming down from the tree unfortunately. We also saw a Thomson's gazelle kill (leopard kill) in a tree earlier, but people were assuming it was the same one that has been there for at least two days, because a Thomson's gazelle kill was seen in the tree the day before.

We went to the Serengeti lodge and enjoyed free swimming and coffee. We also got to go to Hippo Pool!! There were a large number of hippos, adults and young! I saw a baby hippo nursing in the water. Further down, one hippo was causing trouble. He/she would run at the others and rowl some of the others up. So, they'd run at each other a little, but nothing really seem to go on. It was awesome to see though. We also saw the 'mother of all hippos'. It was huge and even a lot bigger than all of the others. 


Tuesday was our last day in the Serengeti wilds. We woke up at 6:30 AM to pack up our backpacks and tents. I claimed the front passenger seat of the land cruiser, which was smart on my part as I feel like I had the best view. As we drove out of Serengeti, we painted the grassy landscape with dust. The Thomson's gazelle watched as we passed by. Zebras foraged and wondered the plains. Herds from the wildebeest migration crossed the road in front of us in straight lines, They ran and jumped on the grassy curb. Out in the field, they ran wildly and free. Truly something that made me feel grateful. In these moments, somehow the large clumsy and stampeding beasts seemed so graceful and beautiful to me. Something I couldn't believe and something that I hope to witness again in my lifetime. There was also a female lion with a wildebeest kill not more than 50 meters from her. Other lions were barely seen in the background under a sausage tree, while she lays in the sun in an open grassland. Earlier, a giraffe was seen in the small Acacia woodland browsing near the ground. Right then, I also caught the glimpse of a flying bird who landed on the ground under an Acacia  and I got some pics. It turned out to be a Pallid harrier. My first harrier positively identified in Africa.

While we were on our way out, we saw the largest herd of ONLY zebra that we've seen yet. Thousands of Thomson's gazelle (fastest long distance land animal) foraged and appeared vigilant as we flew by at 60 kmph on the terribly bumpy roads. Right before we reached the entrance/exit to Serengeti (the paid part of it), two male lions were spotted laying on the plains. The first adult male was spotted on the left side of the road laying 500 meters in front of hundreds of wildebeest. The second adult male was 1/2 mile up the road, laying on the right side. They were the most beautiful male lions that I have ever seen. Their thick and dark manes accented their large bodies. Honestly, these were the Fabios of lions. As I listened to "Am I Wrong" by Nico and Vinz, the song I listened to on repeat beginning months before departing for Africa, I began to tear up. The wildlife, the landscape, the life there looked and felt so incredible. I thought about how much all of this--this being the wildlife, the environment-- truly means to me. I thought about all of my dreams, my future travels, my future and how I hope I am successful in all of my endeavors. It was perfect. As we left the park, the wildebeest, zebras, lions, hartebeest, topis, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, Maasai giraffes, cape buffalos, spotted hyenas, and harriers looked on. Serengeti is such a magical place.

Machu Picchu

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It has been quite a long time since I've put up a blog post, but man have I been busy. As the time is winding down, I'm realizing that I still have so much I want to see and do and a dwindling amount of time in which to do it. But, I'll save that sentimental post for closer to the end. Now, I finally have to tell you about MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD: Machu Picchu. 

 

I've been struggling with how to approach this post about Machu Picchu. How do you describe a place whose beauty is indescribable? You can't. I wrote a draft of a post last week, read it, and hated it. It didn't even come close to capturing the magnificence of this ancient civilization ensconced by the Andes. So, I decided to step away for a little and come back to write afresh, but I still couldn't find the words. Machu Picchu is one of those places that you have to see to understand. 

 

As soon as I first saw the ruins and looked up at the surrounding mountains, I felt an instant connection to nature and history: a connection that I've never felt before. I realized how much I take my life and my opportunities for granted. I get caught up in my daily little problems and don't stop to look around. I never take a day to hike a mountain or lie by a lake, connecting with the natural beauty around us. That needs to change. ASAP. I need to take a lesson from the Incans. They understood the innate harmony that exists between nature and us humans. The world consists of more than our own fabricated microcosms. That's how they were able to build this incredible palace more than half a millennium ago.

 

I've already said more than I intended, so I'm going to let my pictures speak for themselves. Without further ado, Machu Picchu:

 

 

 

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Mein Lieblingsland (My favorite country)

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Before I left for Europe, I expected myself to be trekking through a different country every weekend.  I thought I could get enough of Vienna during the week and would be able to experience all the other European capitals on Saturdays and Sundays.  But, during my two months here I have found myself wanting to explore Austria more than any other country.  There are so many beautiful and hidden parts of my host land and discovering them has been so exciting.

One weekend, my friends and I took a trip to southern Austria, where we spent a lot time outdoors, mingling with the locals.  First, we went to an open-air museum in the mountains where we learned a lot about how Austrians lived before modern times.  It was really refreshing to finally breathe fresh mountain air and spend some time in nature.  After the museum, we spent a night in Graz, the second largest city in Austria.  It is a college city and filled with people our age.  We had a great night practicing our German with the locals! On Sunday, we stopped in a small town on the boarder of Austria and Slovenia called Gamlitz to join in on their fall festival celebration.  We ate like traditional Austrians, listened to folk music, and watched a big parade.  This was my first experience with a small town in Austria and I absolutely loved it.  Everyone was very friendly and open.

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On another Sunday, we travelled to Styria, a state in the southeast of Austria.  In one day, we toured the famous Melk Abbey, hiked ancient ruins, tasted wine at a family-run vineyard, and ate at a traditional Austrian Heuriger.  It was exhausting, but one of the best days I've had so far.  Because all these places are so close to home, I get to do much more than if I had left Austria.  By visiting these places and by taking my time to know this country, I find myself falling more and more in love with Austria.

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On a sadder note, this week marked the halfway point of my study abroad and I can't say I'm too excited about it.  Now, I'm on the downhill and instead of seeing endless possibilities, I finally see my limitations for study abroad.  Most of my weekends are filled with trips to different countries, excursions within Austria, and outings in Vienna.  I feel time slowly slipping away from me and I'm scared the end will be here before I know it, but I'm also so proud and astounded by what I have already done here.  I really feel as if I have taken advantage of what my study abroad has to offer.

 

Mein Lieblingsland (My favorite country)

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Before I left for Europe, I expected myself to be trekking through a different country every weekend.  I thought I could get enough of Vienna during the week and would be able to experience all the other European capitals on Saturdays and Sundays.  But, during my two months here I have found myself wanting to explore Austria more than any other country.  There are so many beautiful and hidden parts of my host land and discovering them has been so exciting.

One weekend, my friends and I took a trip to southern Austria, where we spent a lot time outdoors, mingling with the locals.  First, we went to an open-air museum in the mountains where we learned a lot about how Austrians lived before modern times.  It was really refreshing to finally breathe fresh mountain air and spend some time in nature.  After the museum, we spent a night in Graz, the second largest city in Austria.  It is a college city and filled with people our age.  We had a great night practicing our German with the locals! On Sunday, we stopped in a small town on the boarder of Austria and Slovenia called Gamlitz to join in on their fall festival celebration.  We ate like traditional Austrians, listened to folk music, and watched a big parade.  This was my first experience with a small town in Austria and I absolutely loved it.  Everyone was very friendly and open.

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On another Sunday, we travelled to Styria, a state in the southeast of Austria.  In one day, we toured the famous Melk Abbey, hiked ancient ruins, tasted wine at a family-run vineyard, and ate at a traditional Austrian Heuriger.  It was exhausting, but one of the best days I've had so far.  Because all these places are so close to home, I get to do much more than if I had left Austria.  By visiting these places and by taking my time to know this country, I find myself falling more and more in love with Austria.

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On a sadder note, this week marked the halfway point of my study abroad and I can't say I'm too excited about it.  Now, I'm on the downhill and instead of seeing endless possibilities, I finally see my limitations for study abroad.  Most of my weekends are filled with trips to different countries, excursions within Austria, and outings in Vienna.  I feel time slowly slipping away from me and I'm scared the end will be here before I know it, but I'm also so proud and astounded by what I have already done here.  I really feel as if I have taken advantage of what my study abroad has to offer.

 

Week 7--Maasai Culture, Directed Research

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Wednesday morning, Peter, a Maasai man came into speak to our class about the Maasai. We learned a lot of interesting things over the course of the morning. In the afternoon, I did more yoga and then did some additional exercising.

Thursday, we went to a Maasai cultural boma and learned about Maasai traditions and culture. I have been waiting to learn about Maasai culture. They are all across the area near us. When we first got there, the Maasai guides gave us all Maasai shukas to wear. They lined us up and the Maasai performed their welcome dance for us. Then we went inside their 'fence' (cut down Acacia bushes placed like a fence). Then we watched one of their traditional dances and were invited to join them. The women joined the group of women, and the men joined the men group. The women gave us all large circular beaded necklaces to wear, took our hands and led us through the dance. The men all got to make these cool, yet odd sounding noises and jump extremely high. The women made softer sounds and jumped only slightly off the ground. At the end, the women had to walk over to the men, any man, and rub the woman's shoulder on the man's. I said thank you to the women who had been leading me the whole time in dance. She only spoke Maa and Swahili. I told her "Ashay" which means thank you in Maa. She was very amused with this and was smiling and asking me questions in Swahili that I didn't understand. I then told her "Kidogo Kiswahili" meaning I know only a little bit of Swahili. Then we laughed and she let me go on my way. Makes me wish I knew more Swahili! Afterwards, they showed us how they made fire, showed us their weapons (knifes and spears), and showed us their shield. We broke up into groups and went for a bushwalk, which was a lot of fun, because I got to talk to the Maasai guides a lot. They knew english really well. Besides english and Swahili (the language all Tanzanians know), the Maasai speak their own language known as "Maa." One told us that one guy, the Laboni (Village leader) who lives up on the hill has 60 wives, which then have at least 3-4 children/wife. That is insane! The number of cattle a man has shows how rich a man is. When a man has a lot of cattle, he tries to have more wives because the women take care of the cattle. It's normal for a man to have 6-10 wives who all have their own homes and children.

When we got back to the village, we went and saw the children in kindergarten. One particular 3 year old boy was very smart. He led the class in singing to us, reading numbers in english and Swahili and then telling us the alphabet. We were very impressed with them all. Next, we went to the bush to shoot bow and arrows at a target and throw a spear. Last, we went inside the Maasai bomas to see how they were built. Overall, it was a pretty cool experience. I relaxed the rest of the day since I had my work done. We've had a lot of free time this past week. It's been nice relaxing. To finish off the night, we watched The Departed.

Friday, we had our poster presentation beginning at 8 AM. I signed up to go 8th and get it out of the way. I presented on the 'Habitat Preferences of Maasai Giraffes in three protected areas'. It went better than I expected, thank goodness. In the afternoon, we learned about all of the Directed Research projects. We should hopefully find out our DR tomorrow! Today, we went to the primary school for the reading program with grade 5. This is something that some of us voluntarily do, we aren't required to go. Today, we sang 'If you're happy and you know it', then read some books and went outside to play 'duck, duck, goose'. It was a really fun day with the kids! I think I made some new friends too.

Saturday, I woke up at 4 AM and thought I was late for cook crew because there was light outside. I didn't have to be up until 6:15 AM. I barely slept the next few hours, but got up for cook crew in time. Today was the day we received out directed research. Our first class was a briefing on how our directed research would be graded and advice for it. Right afterwards, we walked outside the classroom and noticed the directed research groups had been posted. I got the one I wanted. The overall topics in the group that I got to choose from are encompassed in invasive plant species management and quality and quantity of pastures. I am considering researching something to do with invasive plant species. There are subtopics we can choose from, but we are also slightly allowed to branch out on them as well. So, that was exciting... now... I just seriously need to figure out what we can do..! One of the coolest things about this project is that all data collection will be in Ngorongoro Conservation  Area.. near the Ngorongoro Crater! Otherwise, today was kind of a bust. Besides working on the habitat management plan, I struggled to get much done because I was not in a good mood today, which must have carried over from last night. To be honest, attempting to plan after program travel has become frustrating and stressful because of money constraints, which is partially the reason for my bad mood. I had done a decent amount of research on places on the coast, but now the plan seems to be changing and everything seems to be looking much more expensive.. and it's bumming me out. Also, I had a group project that I didn't really feel a part of. I didn't feel as though my ideas were completely accepted and they should have been. I'm annoyed with a lot right now, and I wish I wasn't! It's my first real problem at all this whole trip and it's causing me a little more frustration than it's worth.. Anyways, to finish off the night we had a cook out, and got to have cheeseburgers and french fries! The cooking club made some good food tonight, and everyone was in a good mood.. so it helped with my mood. We only have 1 and a half months left in TZ. Hoping for the best!

Sunday was our full day to work on our research proposals, as everyone's (except for my groups) were due at midnight. I was a bit of a procrastinator most of the day. I struggled to get much of anything done. I ended up completing a paragraph of my Maasai Tourism paper and 2 sections of my research proposal completed. Then at night, we watched Fight Club, which I haven't seen in a while.

Monday was our day off. I wasn't feeling to great in the morning, so I was deciding whether or not I should just stay here. I didn't want to be gone all day in town with the rest of the people. I did decide to stay at camp, and thought I would regret it, but I didn't. It was a nice quiet day. Didn't do much.. but it was nice and went pretty quick.

Tuesday was a boring day. I spent the whole day inside working on my research proposal draft. I worked on it up til the last minute and still wasn't confident with my work. Hoping for the best. Glad the first one is only a draft.

I've got visitors!

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One of my most enjoyable and memorable parts of study abroad so far has been having my family come visit me.  Last weekend I became "tour guide Amy" when my mom, dad, brother, godmother, and family friends came to Vienna.  It was the first time I truly felt like an expert in Vienna because I got to show and teach people about "my city".

First, I took them to a traditional Viennese dinner of Wiener Schnitzel in a local restaurant.  I got to flex my German-speaking skills for my family when I spoke to the waiter almost entirely in German.  They were very thankful to see my study abroad experience paying off.  The next day we did more touring of famous Vienna sites, like St. Stephan's Cathedral, and then had dinner with a couple of my study abroad friends.  Everyone got along really well and it was cool to see my actual family interact with my "abroad family".

On our last day together we toured Schönbrunn, a beautiful palace with stunning gardens, and then I showed them the Naschmarkt, Vienna's biggest and best outdoor market.  That was my favorite part of the visit because the Naschmarkt is across the street from my apartment and my favorite place to explore in Vienna.  You can get anything you want there, from fruits and vegetables to exotic teas and spices.  My mom bought some candied nuts and my brother got a new scarf.  Thankfully, they loved it as much as I do.  That night, we had a big final celebration at Wiener Wiesn-fest, a three-week celebration of Austrian food, music, and beer.  People from all ages were dressed in traditional Austrian garb, singing folk songs, and dancing all over the festival grounds.  It was the perfect ending to a great weekend with my family.  Their small visit cured any homesickness I might have felt and made me excited to finish the last two months of my study abroad.

10624742_10203774619021738_3991851022297153602_n.jpg

I've got visitors!

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

One of my most enjoyable and memorable parts of study abroad so far has been having my family come visit me.  Last weekend I became "tour guide Amy" when my mom, dad, brother, godmother, and family friends came to Vienna.  It was the first time I truly felt like an expert in Vienna because I got to show and teach people about "my city".

First, I took them to a traditional Viennese dinner of Wiener Schnitzel in a local restaurant.  I got to flex my German-speaking skills for my family when I spoke to the waiter almost entirely in German.  They were very thankful to see my study abroad experience paying off.  The next day we did more touring of famous Vienna sites, like St. Stephan's Cathedral, and then had dinner with a couple of my study abroad friends.  Everyone got along really well and it was cool to see my actual family interact with my "abroad family".

On our last day together we toured Schönbrunn, a beautiful palace with stunning gardens, and then I showed them the Naschmarkt, Vienna's biggest and best outdoor market.  That was my favorite part of the visit because the Naschmarkt is across the street from my apartment and my favorite place to explore in Vienna.  You can get anything you want there, from fruits and vegetables to exotic teas and spices.  My mom bought some candied nuts and my brother got a new scarf.  Thankfully, they loved it as much as I do.  That night, we had a big final celebration at Wiener Wiesn-fest, a three-week celebration of Austrian food, music, and beer.  People from all ages were dressed in traditional Austrian garb, singing folk songs, and dancing all over the festival grounds.  It was the perfect ending to a great weekend with my family.  Their small visit cured any homesickness I might have felt and made me excited to finish the last two months of my study abroad.

10624742_10203774619021738_3991851022297153602_n.jpg

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  • JESSICA NICOLE ARNOLD: Wow! Even though you had a series of unfortunate events, read more
  • JESSICA NICOLE ARNOLD: At least you made an adventure out of the unfortunate read more
  • April Sperfslage: Hi Kate! Thanks for reading! I cannot wait to share read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: Wait, really? I thought the bathrooms on airplanes were unisex, read more
  • JORDAN TYLER CHAPMAN: Too bad you couldn't take pictures, but maybe it'll inspire read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: Wow, it sounds like you had a lot of fun! read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: Yeah, Covent Garden is street performer/vendor central, always something great read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: Yeah, when I was in London, when I had no read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: That sounds great! Always a good time to get acquainted read more
  • NEIL ALEXANDER DONOVAN: "No pictures inside the palace" seems like a common thing read more