Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Ok, now I will finally get to telling you about Madrid, Spain! My friend from study abroad, Emily, was going to be in Europe for a few weeks and wanted to go on a little trip with me, and RyanAir was having a sale or something so I got a cheap round trip flight to Madrid!
I met Emily on November 25th in Paris after work and we stayed in this hostel, since our flight was so early in the morning. We also got a chance to meet up with our friend Mickael and hang out and catch up.
The next day our flight was at 9am, which doesn’t sound too bad. Except that RyanAir flies out of Beauvais, not Paris. Beauvais is a little more than an hour outside of Paris (which is about as far as Charles de Gaulle airport is from Paris as well), but RyanAir suggests you take a bus that is 3 hours before your flight, to ensure that you get there on time. Which meant that we were leaving our hostel at about 5am, since our hostel also wasn’t very close and we didn’t want to risk anything.
One nice thing about a flight that early, is you arrive early. We arrived in Madrid around 11am. We dropped off our things and walked around. Our hostel was in a great location for getting around and I soon discovered that Madrid is actually a pretty small city in terms of sightseeing. Coincidentally, my friend Matt from college/study abroad happened to be working as a language assistant in Madrid and when I hopped on Facebook that first afternoon, he was online and came to come meet us! We went to have pinxtos at a really cool wine bar called Lamiak. Pinxtos are kind of like tapas, but that they are always served on bread (I think so at least). Anyway, mine had goat cheese and caramelized onion on it- yum!!!
After we walked around the city for a bit more and then went to have churros! Apparently, churros are had with this very thick hot chocolate that you dunk it in. They’re delicious, but so bad for you!
Walking around some more, there is an area that is meant to look like New York’s Times Square! The city is also really well done for Christmas, with a giant Christmas trees, an ice rink, and lots of lights everywhere. There is even a building that has a Christmas lights show to music on its wall, just like one I saw in NYC a few years ago.
That night, Emily and I went to this roof top lounge that is worth mentioning. I don’t know what it was called, but the view from the top was unbelievable. Some random girl in the hostel told us to go and we got a crew going and had a really cool time. What a random, swanky find!
The next day was Sunday. In the morning we met Matt outside of a well known restaurant-type place that sell what are supposed to be amazing calamari sandwiches. I love calamari, but this was definitely not the best, and whoever thought putting bad calamari on a crappy role, and then maybe putting mayonnaise on it, they clearly were not thinking straight.
After, that, it happened to be right by the modern art museum Reina Sophia, which is free on Sundays. This museum holds famous and beautiful modern art and is most known for its Dali’s and Picasso’s. There is especially one Picasso that is the highlight of the museum: The Guernica. The Guernica, completed in 1937, is an intense piece depicting the Spanish Civil War. It really is a giant and emotional piece and I would highly recommend seeing it if you go to Madrid.
Afterwards, we walked to a very beautiful park called Retiro Park. On the way, we passed what seemed to be an Occupy Wall street-type protest, which was neat to see. In the park, which is enormous, there are beautiful fountains, trees and shrubs. They even have palm trees because it never freezes there! There is one beautiful man-made pond that has an enormous fountain and you can rent row boats. We sat on the steps in the sun watching the row boats go by…
After, we discovered that there is a free art exhibit in the park that is a gallery of the Renia Sophia. It was particularly striking because all the walls were blaringly white, in contrast to the colorful paintings on the walls. Then, pretty nearby, was the Glass Palace, which we also discovered. Inside was another modern art exhibit, but it was just one work of art. The palace is all in glass so that the sun comes through, and the exhibit was a wall that lined the outer glass wall so you could walk between the glass and this wall or inside of it. On this wall were millions of tiny cut out symbols, so that when you looked at the sun through it, it looked like stars. It was very beautiful.
After that, we wandered around for a long time. I got to see the beautiful cathedral of Madrid and the Palace of the king and queen (who knew that Spain still had a king and queen? Lol I can’t believe I didn’t…).
We also went to the Prado Museum for about an hour, since it is free for the last two hours. Here they have beautiful Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco.
The next day we walked around the area known as Malasaña. In this area, my friend Kristen recommended to me a restaurant that has the best paella in all of Madrid. This quaint little restaurant did have great paella, and Emily and Matt really like what they ordered as well! Which was easy, since we all have very different tastes and Emily is a vegetarian.
After that we walked to the center of town and got nun cookies! In a small square known as Plazuela del Conde de Miranda, there is an old convent of cloistered nuns that make old fashioned cookies. To get them, you have to go to this door on the street and ring a bell, then, after telling them you want cookies, you go in and follow a hallway and at the end, you reach a dark room and on the left wall is a sort of lazy-Susan and behind it is a cloistered nun who you’re not allowed to see. She speaks to you (in Spanish!) and you get to choose what kind of cookies you want. I bought almond and coconut. They are really dense, powdery cookies made with lard instead of butter in the very, very old fashioned way and are called pulverones.
Other things we saw is there is a beautiful covered market that has all kinds of food, wines, and tapas.
I think that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t seem like much, but I really loved Madrid. The weather was excellent and warm and the architecture is beautiful and you can just walk around all day looking at free and beautiful things.
To see pictures, follow this link:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ghent & Frankfurt

So I last left you off on the 2nd of November, when I had just barely made it home from Liverpool... In my memory, nothing too exciting happened in Le Havre (LH), so I'll just skip to the 11th...
On Friday, November 11th it is not only Veterans day in the US, but also la fête de l'armistice (Armistice Day) in France, which meant I had the day off (and since I only work 3 hours Thursday and 6 hours on Friday, I only had to work 3 hours that day!). So, I hopped on a train from LH to Paris and then did this cool thing called "covoiturage." Covoiturage is kind of like modern hitch hiking except for a few major differences: you plan it in advance, and its not free. To covoiturage, or ride share, you use a well known webisite (there are several, but I've found the most popular and easiest one to be and you search your starting city, ending city, and date you want to travel. Then a list pops up of people going that route. The site calculates how much each seat costs in the car based on the car's gas efficiency (drivers post what car they have- model, year, everything), the distance, and tolls. Each person has a profile, contact info, and reviews. I used this site to find someone driving from Paris to Ghent, Belgium. The cost of the ride was 22euro. Covoiturage isn't always necessarily faster or cheaper than buses or trains, but its typically nicer because you get to talk with someone (and practice your French!) and its a bit more comfortable. Trains can be quite comfortable and fast but expensive and buses are cheap but usually take a long time and are uncomfortable... Also, the price never changes, unlike buses and trains which get more expensive as you get closer to your travel date.
So, anyway, I found this very nice young guy who was driving 3 other people as well from Paris to Ghent. He wanted to meet everyone at Ivry-sur-Seine, a really nice area just on the border of paris towards the east. Unfortunately, I miss read the train list and got on a train that was on the right line but was SKIPPING the stop and not stopping again for another 15-20 minutes!!! In a panic, I called him and explained what was happening. I was extremely worried that he was going to tell me, "Sorry!" and leave without me! Luckily, he was super nice and drove to where I was (a good 30-40 min in the other direction by car!) to pick me up. Apparently one of the couples that was supposed to come on the covoiturage bailed (not very nice! Though Jo, the driver, said that it happens fairly often), but there was a girl who was stopping in Lille, a small city in France just before the Belgian border. So we had a nice conversation. Jo turned out to be Belgian, studying chiropractics, and happened to speak French, English and Dutch. The girl (I forget her name now and what she did), didn't speak English but understood it, so it was nice to speak in French, but when I had trouble explaining something or understanding, it worked out.
So after a nice car ride into Belgium, I did another thing that I know might shock you (since I imagine many of you are shocked that I am taking rides with strangers haha). Since Ghent is a very small city in Belgium and I was going there because it is the host of a major indoor electronic music festival, all the hostels were booked. So, I Couchsurfed. Couchsurfing is a cross between hitch hiking and covoiturage-ing couches. For those of you who don't know what Couchsurfing is, it is a free website that connects people looking for places to stay, with people who have places to stay. It's more elaborate than covoiturage and is in many ways similar to Facebook. There are many different forums within it and people can plan events, meetups, etc. It's a really nice way to meet people in your community if you just moved there. Also, the profiles are more elaborate. You write a description about yourself, where you've traveled, life goals, where you live, your age, education, pictures, etc. You can also have friends and they write about what they think of you. Also, when you've stayed with someone or they've stayed with you, you post about each other as well and write about the experience. So there's quite a lot of feedback you can look at when trying to choose someone to stay with or deciding if its ok for them to stay with you. Couchsurfing is how I met my best friend, Emily! :)
Anyway, I was staying with a guy named Simon who is Dutch and studying architecture. When I got there, he introduced me to his roommate Frank and a guy from NY named Erik who was staying at their place for the week... Unfortunately, Simon had to go home to Bruges, and Erik was leaving to go somewhere else in Ghent. Luckily, Frank was super cool! Frank is also studying architecture and he is from the Czech Republic. He was very interesting to speak with and had a lot of really interesting ideas. The Friday night, after hanging out for a long time talking, we went out. Simon left me his bike, so Frank and I rode bikes through the town. Ghent is a really cool city because it is very small and very beautiful. I would definitely recommend it if you just happen to be passing through Belgium. It has a really medieval feel to it. And there's a castle in the main square. There are also really beautiful canals. We rode our bikes through the desolate but beautiful streets to get to the student area where all the bars are. Its really hilarious because the area is really grimy and dingy. The bars are really smelly and the street is just unattractive... As soon as we got there, I was no longer in the mood to be there. So Frank and I just hung out on the street watching people pass by and talking some more...
One funny thing is that they had a public urinal on a street corner. Whats weird about it was that it was open air and it was made of glass that wasn't see through, but there was a light behind it so that you could see the shadows of the guys peeing! It was very strange...
The next day, my friend Emily's friend joined me in Couchsurfing with Frank. Her name was Meli and she is from Argentina but is currently working at a fancy hotel in Spa, Belgium. When Meli got there, her and I spent a while walking around and seeing the sights of Ghent. We went in a few beautiful churches and just generally walked around.
That night we went to I <3 Techno, a huge in door music festival (one of the largest in Europe!). I saw tons of artists and met lots of people from all over Europe. I also brought my LED light hoop. A girl FOUND ME because she hooped too! She and I were the only hoopers there that night and we had a blast. Not surprisingly, she was also from the US. I wish more people hooped here. In the US I could go to a festival like that and easily find people to hoop with... Nevertheless, it was still really fun and crazy!
The next day I took an 8 hour bus to Frankfurt to meet up with Emily! After a crazy fiasco, and nearly missing the bus, I got onto the bus and just sat for ages, wait to get there... We passed through Brussels and I got to see the UN building there... but that was the only cool sight...
Finally got to Frankfurt and was reunited with the lovely and amazing Emily Davidson!! :D I stayed in the hostel she's been living in, 5 Elements. It's such an epic hostel. There is an amazing lounge area with leather couches and free laptops you can rent out and Tuesday is free unlimited past night and the pillows and comforters are super nice as well... Her friends in the hostel are also super nice and amazing! Also, its funny because the hostel is in the red light district of Frankfurt. It's totally safe, especially for girls because the hookers aren't really looking for female clientele, but apparently if your male they can be extremely aggressive in trying to get you into their "store"...
Frankfurt is also a very modern, very clean city. There is this beautiful mall that has this amazing glass architecture inside it and you can go on the roof for free and see the whole city. There's a huge cathedral that we could see from there that was used by the Allied army (I think) in WWII as a reference point, so it was never bombed (while the rest of the city was).
I'm trying to think of what other cool stuff we did in Frankfurt, but I really went there to go see Emily so I spent a lot of time hanging out with her... One cool thing we did do was that there are 5€ films on Monday nights. You pay the 5€ and all you know is that it will be a film in English, but you dont know if the film will be awful or old or sappy or scary... Luckily this one was a good one. It was called Hysteria and it featured Maggie Gyllenhall in it. It was a period piece about the late 1800s when women who were unsatisfied with their lives were labeled with the medical term, hysteria. The treatment: and handjob... that is until they discovered, the vibrator! Haha it was a hilarious film and if youre interested, I've written about it for a friend's blog :
That was kind of it really... On Wednesday I took an over night bus to Paris and then the train to LH in the morning! Worked that afternoon ;)
Up next: MADRID!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ireland and a little bit of Liverpool

Im sorry I´ve failed all of you yet again, but to be fair, I wrote this a while ago by hand because my computer has broken. Good news: it can be fixed! :)

I think I left off last time on my way to Dublin?
Well Dublin was really nice. When I arrived, my friend John picked me up, which was super nice! He is a friend of mine who is also an assistant in Le Hare. He is from Swords, just outside of Dublin. After stopping at his home to see what a real Irish home looks like (just like American homes, except the fridge is tiny and they have a "sitting room") we headed into Dublin.
John showed me around the town, explaining to me some of its difficult history. Of the landmarks, I remember the Spire (a giant silver needle in the middle of the center of town, the joke is that its a giant needle because of the huge heroin problem they have there), a statue of some historic figure on a horse (I remember it because it has bullet holes in it from the civil war=, and a statue of a whore pushing a cart (yes, right on a main road through town).
John and I also went to Trinity College. Trinity is very famous as it is part of a triumverate of elite UK schools: Trinity, Cambridge, and Oxford. It was established as an Anglican school in 1592 (any Catholics found on the property could be shot on sight!).
The campus is quite lovely and open to the public. On the campus (for a hefty fee) you get to go into the old portion of the library, which has become a museum that houses really old manuscripts. About 1,000 years ago, the Irish church was mostly a monastic organization, with monks living in isolation, re-writing the Bible with beautiful designs and colors. The most famous of these books, held at Trinity, is the Book of Kells. The book can be found in a glass case, and apparently they turn the page everyday. I also liked that they had a stone with the ancient Gaelic writing system on it, called Ogham. At the end of the visit, you get to walk along the second floor through the old library, with all the old books in old bookcases. It reminded me of the library in Beauty and the Beast, if that helps you to envision it. You could also see in this section, on the other side of a glass wall, the department where they care for and maintain the old books and manuscripts, which is cool.
I want to take a moment here to talk about Irish Gaelic. Since Ireland's independence, the Irish have taken a keen interest in their culture and history. Thus, in high school, Gaelic is a required subject. There are also elementary schools that are taught in all Gaelic, so that the student are fluent. There are certain towns in Ireland where the lingua franca is Gaelic. And in Ireland you dont have majors in college like we do; you choose 3 subjects to study in first year and then two subjects for 2nd and 3rd year (college is only 3 years in Europe) and typically one of those two subjects is Gaelic. All road signs are also in English and in Gaelic. And just so you know, there is a difference between Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, though I'm told they are not terribly different.
That evening I met my friend Amy's cousin, who also lives in Dublin. We hung out with him in a pub and he had a friend who was also visiting him who was from the States and studying abroad in Italy. I felt very cool sitting in an Irish pub drinking with Irish people :)
Amy's cousin also invited me to take the bus to Galway with him and his friend and we could crash with his friends who live there. Apparently Galway is the "cultural capital" of Ireland. Unfortunately, I didnt get there until after 11pm and I left in the morning, so I cant say much about it other than that it has a fun nightlife (haha).
The hostel I stayed at, Isaac's Hostel, was not nice- I wouldnt recommend it. It was super noisy as a result of thin wals and wood foors, so that I was up at 8am every day, which is awful because there really isnt much to do there before noon as most things to do in Dublin circle around drinking lol. I was tempted to go to the Jameson distillery and the Guinness brewery, but I felt that it was just too depressing to go to those places by myself... Honestly, I spent most of my time drinking there because theres not much else to do, which is obviously fun, but not really exciting to write about.
They do, however, celebrate Halloween, which is why I went there in the first place. I dressed as a French sailor. On the night before Halloween I went to a Halloween party with John and on Halloween night I went out on a pub crawl with a bunch of different people I met on a walking tour. A few of the girl were even from Rockville Center on LI!
I also got to go to the 21st birthday party of on of John's friends. It was fun- she had it in a pub with her friends and family. There were lots of finger foods, which was nice (they never have those in France!).
Overall, the experience in Dublin was fun, but I hear that I really should have seen the other parts of Ireland which are very beautiful. I was encouraged by one traveler to go back and do the Paddy Wagon tour, which is youthful, cheap, and sees lots of sights around Ireland.
After these epic few days, I took a ferry over to Holyhead in Wales and then a train to Chester and then to Liverpool. The ferry was at 7:30am, so I caught up on sleep on that and didnt really see much, though it was a really nice boat with free (though painfully slow) internet and computers, duty free shops, restaurants, etc. The train from Holyhead to Chester was nice and made Wales look unbelievable open and beautiful. Sadly, I realized on the train ride that in the stress and confusion of finding the right train in Holyhead, I had left a garbage bag of a few things at the train station! (So typical me!) After a mini panic attack, the conductor called Holyhead and got my bag on the next train. Unfortunately, that train was two hours behind me. Fortunately, the conductor was SO helpful and nice and told me to wait for it at Chester and that I could take a free shuttle into town. Turns out Chester is really quaint. There was a lovely little church with a cute courtyard/park that I could sit in while eating a sandwich. There is also a a really nice square with beautiful brick buildings around it. On the neighboring streets were the old style white building with the exposed beams that you see around England. It may sound really silly, but I'm kind of glad I forgot my things and had to spend time there- it was lovely and I wouldn't have seen this little town otherwise.
After nearly 12 hours of traveling, I finally made it to Liverpool. I made this epic journey because the flight from Liverpool was a bit cheaper and I thought it'd be fun to see this other part of England.
Since I arrived to Liverpool on a Tuesday, it was pretty quiet. However, I luckily found a few people in the hostel and rallied them up for going out. It is quite a modern city like Le Havre (except prettier) since it was also bombed in WWII. Near the hostel is this cool church that was bombed so that all that is left is a skeleton of the church: no roof, no windows, just the framework.
Luckily, one of the guys that I rallied to go out the night before had the day free so he showed me around. By the water are really nice ships that you can go on and there is a modern art museum that is a branch of the Tate Museum, though I didnt go in it.
The highlights of the city are its two major churches. There is a massive Anglican church that looks like a medieval cathedral. What is funny is that inside, above the doors, is a neon pink sign giving a quote from the Bible. The church is just as imposing inside as it is outside, and is large enough that it has a cafe in it, which seemed so weird to me.
The other church was a Catholic church that looks like a cross between a teepee and a spaceship. Apparently the crypt is really amazing because they built it really well and really big first, and then realized that if they continued at that rate it would cost too much money...
Oh, and of course the other major sight there is the underground bar where the Beatles made their debut. Unfortunately, when I went in the afternoon it was closed, but at least I got to see the outside!
That evening I flew back to Paris and sprinted from the airport to the train station where I could get a train to Le Havre (my mom can tell you, its quite far- and I made it in an hour!). The next big thing to come up: Ghent and Frankfurt on Nov. 11!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I'm sorry its been ages!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so sorry that I’ve failed to update in weeks! I’ve been soooooo busy!
Nothing too exciting happened again until October 14th, when I met Emily (the girl I went to Bestival with) in Paris. We stayed in this very cool hostel called Lucky Youth Hostel near Gare Monparnasse. It wasn’t like your typical hostel because it was an actual apt in an apt building which meant there was a full kitchen and even laundry (if I had known I would have brought some!). We also got to meet the owners- a really cute, funny couple!
In the hostel were two Italian girls who I pretty much never saw and two Aussie guys who we ended up hanging out a lot with.
Emily and I went to a show on Rue Oberkampf, a street famous in Paris for its fun bars. We went to a venue called Nouveau Casino to see the Glitch Mob. Glitch Mob are two djs that play electronic music and they did a great job but the venue was so overcrowded that it was disgustingly hot and the crowd forcibly separated Emily and me for the rest of the night. Due to these awful conditions, I can’t say I really enjoyed the show. However, after Glich Mob got off stage, a female dj (very rare) came on. Most people left and I quickly found myself reunited with Emily right at the front of the stage with plenty of wiggle room. To my surprise this dj was AMAZING! Not only were her mixes seamless, upbeat, and energized, but she was insane. She jumped up & down, contorting her face, raising her hands up, bobbing her head up & down. Mid way through the set, this was clearly not enough space for her & she left behind the booth to run around it, stand in front of it, & jump up and down. She had to race back behind the booth, but later, still not content with the space behind the dj set, she actually climbed up on the equipment and began jumping, shouting, and waving her hands. It was unreal! Her name, I discovered, was Miss Ill, pronounced missile.
Saturday I took Emily and the Aussies to an Anglophone bar called the Frog and Princess (on Rue de la Princesse near Odeon & Saint Germain des Pres). At this bar they brew their own beer & I was proud to show off my favorite to them (a bar tender there has told me “this is the beer that all beer brewers will drink here- they find all the others to be crap!”). Sadly, the Aussies don’t like a lager- they find it flat. They just don’t have a refined taste in beer like myself I suppose!
Sunday I took Emily to the Jardin Atlantique. This garden is located above the Gare Montparnasse (on the roof) & because it is surrounded by apartment buildings, it cuts off the noise of the streets, making it very quiet and peaceful. Around us, children played games and one definitely French couple was making out a bit too much.
In the evening, the Aussies wanted to see the Moulin Rouge & have snails & frogs legs. So I looked on Trip Advisor to find a budget eatery with authentic French food. When we got to the Moulin Rouge, right in front where you take pictures of it, someone was having what appeared to be her wedding photos taken. I don’t know why in the world you would want your weddings pics taken in front of there, but ok.
After, I took everyone to this restaurant and it turned out to be awesome. It wasn’t super cheap, though nothing in Paris is, but we did get out “authentic” meal. The didn’t have frogs legs, but they did serve escargot, which everyone loved. One of the boys got French onion soup and Emily and I got raclette. The raclette was a large block of cheese that you melt by putting it near hot coals. You the scrape off the melted bit and eat it with meat that you’re given. It was delicious!! Then we did the cliché thing and bought beers and wine and drank under the Eiffel Tower.
The next day, the Aussies left for Dublin. Emily and I headed to Le Havre. She stayed with me until Saturday and we spent a lot of the week just hanging around.
On Thursday, I had to go to Rouen to complete my visa by getting a brief medical examination. Afterwards, we went to the Musee des beaux-arts there (free for students!). We also went to the Church of Joan of Arc. The Church has a very weird look as it appears both medieval and modern at the same time. The square surrounding it is quite quaint as well for walking around.
Mom came on Friday and got to meet Emily. On Saturday, Emily left & mom and I rented a car. We went to Etretat where you can see these amazing rock formations and straight cliffs. This was my second time there, and this time it was low tide so we were able to walk through a cave in the cliff on one side to get to the other side (at high tide you would need a boat). An old French woman was the one that showed us the way. She was pretty adventurous seeing as she was definitely over 70, travelling alone, and could hike with the best of them.
We continued on to Yvetot, a small seaside town, slightly les touristy, but also not as beautiful as Etretat.
After that, we went to Fecamp where we saw the Benedictine Palace. This palace was built by some guy after he uncovered the lost formula for todays liquor known as Benedictine (or B&B when added to brandy). This palace is still where the liquor is made, so not only did we get to see a palace (it had beautiful art & architecture), we also got to see where the liquor is made and taste it at the end.
The next day, we headed in the opposite direction to the beaches of Normandy, or debarquement. We went to Omaha beach and a tiny museum near it which had a nice film and lots of items and mannequins (though in retrospect, I would have skipped this whole bit and headed straight to our next site). The we headed to the American Cemetery. At this cemetery, there are over 9,000 American graves (all killed in Normandy during WWII) and the free museum give informative facts and emotional tales of real sacrifice and heroism at the battle of Normandy.
After, we left Omaha Beach and headed to the quaint town of Bayeux. In this cute little town is the amazing Bayeux Tapestry. About 90m long, this tapestry tells the story of how William the Conqueror conquered England (which explains why a lot of English words are of French origin). The museum has a really nice audioguide that walks you through the entire tapestry and tale. Afterwards we walked around this very picturesque town.
On the way back to Le Havre, we stopped for an hour at the beautiful seaport, Honfleur. There isn’t one specific attraction here, but the town is breath taking. The narrow, tall homes have the traditional wooden beams visible from the outside. There is quite simply a character here that in many places seems forced, cheesy, unnatural or not fully developed. You can understand why many impressionist painters came here during their summers to paint.
The next day we drove to Le Mont Saint Michel. It was not the most beautiful day, but it was nice. We got there pretty early and went straight to the top to avoid the crowds. We missed the tour, but we walked through it ourselves and it was quite nice. My favorite part is always the cloister where the garden is. It’s a lovely place to walk around and you can see over the whole hill/mountain. This was my second time there and it was just as striking.
We ate in a really lovely restaurant overlooking the whole ocean. The food was great. Mom had a fish soup and I had a Sheppard’s pie or something (hard to remember now- but it was very good!).
Afterwards we walked through the narrow alley that comprises of the one main street on the island. There are lots of cute little shops that sell really lovely things. However, it was beginning to rain, so we left for Le Havre. When we returned to Le Havre, we had to drop off the car and grab some dinner. By then it was already starting to get dark. We went down the the Docks to see the boats that were coming by for a major regatta to Costa Rica. It was dark and starting to rain and no one was there, but you could tell these boats were cool and quite impressive. It’s too bad we didn’t have more time to see them.
The next day we woke up bright and early and headed to Giverny. We took a train to Vernon, dropped off our bags in a café that allowed us to check our bags there and took the bus to Giverny. We headed straight to Monet’s garden. Because it’s pretty late in the season, it wasn’t as vibrant as it could be, but it was still very nice. Afterwards, we enjoyed a simple meal outside. This was my third time to Giverny, but I had never gone to the Impressionist museum there. This time my mom & I went and it was great! There were all kinds, and they were doing a special exposition on this couple that collected impressionist art. The art featured here was the art they had collected over the years. Would definitely recommend checking out this museum if you ever go to Giverny! My mom & I also went to see where Monet is buried. I also had never seen this and it was quite nice. I was surprised though to find that most of the other tombstones there are in complete disarray and there are notices that if you would like to buy the plot it is available. There was a little church there too, but that was very cute and beautiful. It was nice to have a seat and just relax here.
I’m wiped and that’s a lot for you to read… coming up: Paris and Dublin!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Now in Le Havre!!!

Last time I wrote, I was in Paris, anxious about going to Le Havre.
I struggled with my bags through the Paris Metro (subway) up and down possibly a dozen stairways. I had to ask (beg) for help from passing men, broke into a heavy sweat, and even paid a gypsy to help me. Apparently the French are not too concerned about the handicapped as nearly none of the metros are wheelchair accessible (and therefore don’t have escalators or elevators). Shocking, I know.
So after finally finding a car on the train that had enough space in the baggage hold to contain my FOUR bags (I’m a real American girl, what can I say?), I was able to finally relax. It is a mere 2 hour train ride from Paris to Le Havre, with Rouen (the capital of this region, Haute Normandie) being exactly in the middle (1 hour from Paris, 1 hour from Le Havre by train). When I arrived, I was greeted by Janick, my contact person for the position, and driven to the dorm (luckily, she has a car).
I had arranged to temporarily stay at the YMCA dorm in Le Havre, mostly meant for unemployed youths, but conveniently located near the center of the city. The dorm, because of said role, is mostly dingy and dirty. It smells and you have the distant impression when you enter your tiny room that it has a dirt covering that is not completely visible upon inspection but is felt when you enter the room, and for some reason it feels like it is not possible to scrub off the dirt, but rather its is like a permanent fixture on the room; it has always been there and always will. The room itself was tiny. Very, very tiny. I immediately thought of a kind of spaceship pod, because the bathroom is a tiny little toilet, sink and shower all in one. If I were a boy, I could pee, shower, and brush my teeth all at once (I say boy, because the toilet isn’t really in the shower). The room was maybe 10ft or 15ft by 10ft. It contained a single bed with one drawer beneath it, a desk, a small fridge and microwave (which is pretty nice- I didn’t get that when I lived in a dorm in Paris), and a tiny closet. I’ve been told that after receiving the CAF (money the government gives to students, young people, and families for housing) in December, the rent for this room would only have been 50euro a month (not everyone would get this much money, but because I am a youth working for the government I would get a huge CAF). Pretty cheap, and hence the conditions. I would maybe have stayed, if I could simply have fit all of my belongings in there. Also, because it is for the unemployed, the characters who come through there are not all that great. Some are quite nice, to be sure, but some have slight mental disabilities, social issues, and hygiene problems that can make it awkward, especially since its pretty much all men. For example, the boy in the room across from me smelled so bad, that if I chance to be trying to get into my room while his door was opened I would literally be trying to cover my mouth and mute my gagging. You also cant drink in these dorms (understandable), making them even more intolerable. Clearly not the best place for me.
So anyway, I arrived to this awesome dorm and met the other girl who also has my contact person and we will be sharing the same school district’s elementary schools. Coincidentally, her name is Kristen as well. She’s 25 and comes from San Francisco. She has experience teaching abroad, as she taught English in Madrid, Spain for 2 years. Janick left us and we wandered around the city together. The city is pretty much under total construction until Dec. 2012 (lucky me!). Le Havre used to be a very wealthy seaside resort town as well as port. However, when it became occupied by the Germans in WWII, the Brits decided to bomb the hell out of LH and it has never been able to recover. They’re trying to revamp it now by building a tramway and promenades and putting in a lot of trees and plants. On a Monday, everything is pretty much shut down so there wasn’t much to really see and it was pretty chilly, so I won’t really bore you with the details of the day…
Since this was already over a week ago, I’ll just give you some of the highlights of the week…
So the biggest exciting thing that happened was that I got an apartment. Well, not really an apartment, a house! I have a large bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and living room with two futons. The house has everything I need in it and the couple I’m renting from told me that if I need anything in the house, they will get it for me and that I shouldn’t buy anything! I’m so lucky! The house is really an apartment above their garage. They have a beautiful home that is over 100 years old and then I have my own place with my own entrance. They have a lovely garden. The couple is an older French couple and they are so nice and very lively- they bike ride and play golf and garden and everything.
I felt bad for Kristen though because she wanted the apartment as well, but I snatched it up pretty quickly. So, to make her feel better, I took her out for some moules frites, or mussels and fries. We got a one with a creamy sauce and one with a tomato based sauce and they were amazing. Kristen had never experienced the glory that is mussels and fries, and so I took her out to a restaurant on the ocean to have some of this deliciousness and she loved them. They were incredibly fresh and definitely the best I’ve ever had.
Kristen, another teaching assistant John, and I also went to Etretat. Etretat is less than an hour from Le Havre and is one of those places to see before you die. It is lined with these amazing white cliffs that drop straight down but from erosion there are a few pillar like things and arches. You should Google it because at the moment I don’t have any pictures. There is also a small pebble beach there and though the water was so cold it would take your breath away, it was unusually hot. For the first week I was in Le Havre England and France had a freak heat wave that brought the weather up to the 90s- the hottest it had been all summer. The sun was shining, no clouds in the sky, and the water was an amazing blue.
At Etretat, you can walk up the cliffs and see for miles. It is a great place for hiking or just sitting on the beach, and I really loved it. In fact, we loved it so much that we went back the next day and John and I went kayaking! That was pretty cool because there are all these little strips of beaches that aren’t accessible except for by boat. It was also really incredible to be able to actually kayak through the arches, which tower over you.
This kind of hot, sunny, beautiful weather is very unusual though. Le Havre (and the north of France in general) is known for its crummy weather: mostly cold, windy, rainy, and cloudy. So by Tuesday, my beach days were over.
This past week I finally started working. On Monday all the assistants in the department (France’s version of a state) met in Rouen to finish paper work, meet, and learn a little something about teaching. There are about 29 countries represented by the assistants which teach English, German, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, and more. There were a bunch of kids, some of whom I’ll never meet again because the department is so big, but still it’s pretty cool. We also got together with all the other primary school English assistants and talked about what our role will be in the classroom, etc. Afterwards we went straight back to Le Havre, which I regret now because I didn’t get to see any of Rouen. I’m going back this Thursday for another training and next Thursday for a physical (its part of finalizing your visa), so maybe then I’ll get a chance…
On Tuesday I signed up to be an “auditeur libre” or an auditor for a class, meaning that I’m free to audit any class at the University here. I’m thinking about taking a history and maybe beginner Spanish class (I really want to go to Spain). I’ll let you know which class I decide to take and how it goes next week…
Wednesday Kristen and I went to the first two schools (out of 4) that we might be working at. When I left my house it really wasn’t that bad out, but by the time we got off the bus, it was torrential down pour and we got lost and couldn’t find the school, so we were drenched by the time we got to the school. We were able to stick it out for a while, but after about an hour and a half we had to leave- I had a puddle under my chair because I was so soaked and I was worried about getting sick. So we left early to go back home to change and have lunch. After we went to the second school and it was very nice. It’s funny how different teacher’s teaching styles are. The first class we saw in this second school was an English class and it was very fun and interactive. It got the kids getting up and walking around and moving and playing games. Then Kristen and I split up to see different classes, and the one I was in was intense- the teacher was quite serious and very strict. I think I’d rather be the fun teacher.
The next day we saw the other 2 schools. The first school was awesome- the teachers were incredibly nice. Kristen and I couldn’t believe it. We also got to eat with them for lunch (for free!). it was lamb with oats, and the sauce was amazing. I was totally stuffed from all the food as well! And the teachers were super friendly and nice and chatted a lot with us (at some of the other schools it was more awkward and people didn’t really talk with us). The next school was a little intense. The teacher we stayed with was incredibly nice as well, but she had a hectic class. In her class there were a lot of problem kids. 2 had serious learning disabilities, 1 had some sort of serious behavior problem, 1 had a physical disability, 1 had parents with severe mental problems, 1 who was orphaned by her mother, and 2 who weren’t in the educational system so they essentially know nothing and she has to catch them up. She deals with all of this in one class without any helpers- there are no assistants for the students who can’t read or write, no one to scribe for the boy with a handicap who can’t physically write, no special ed classes, nothing. It was insane and the poor teacher looked incredibly worn out. After school, we had a meeting with the teachers from these 2 schools to talk about what we’re going to do with them this year. These teachers were so nice and gave us their phone numbers and emails and invited us to do things with them, etc. it was so amazing to experience this kindness.
Also, I forgot to mention on Wednesday, Kristen and I went to see standup improv comedy! It was pretty awesome. I didn’t understand all of it, but some of it was very very funny. I especially liked one skit where they set up some props on the floor on their sides and then had a camera above recording it. Its hard to explain, but basically they had to wiggle around on the floor doing the skit so that on the projector it looked like they were standing up. It made for some hilarious comedy.
On Friday I had a little house warming party at my apartment. Spent most of the weekend sleeping. It’s very cold now- low 60s and cloudy.
Wooh! That was a loooooooong update! I’ll try to be more diligent and write more regularly now that I’m settled in!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I see London, I see France...

Wow… It’s been so long since my last blog post, it will be hard to remember all of the details!
My last blogpost I posted about how gray it was in London. Well, then it suddenly turned around! It became amazingly gorgeous. I went to British Museum and saw all kinds of neat stuff! They had really interesting coffins from Africa (I think Ghana?) where the burial ceremony calls for a coffin that is fashioned after some part of the persons life. For example, there was a giant Kodak camera coffin and a big car coffin. I also saw the mummy collection which was my favorite part of the museum. And there was the real Rosetta Stone, which was pretty awesome to see as well. For those of you who don’t know, the Rosetta Stone is a stone in which there was a law or decree written in Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and some other language I don’t know anything about. Having all 3 of these ancient languages written on one stone about one thing helped to explain some of the mysteries of these languages.
Then I walked for hours and hours. I found some cool square thing with some street performers. And wouldn’t you know, there was this guy that I had seen a few years ago with I went with my Aunt Martha to see the Bodies exhibit in Chelsea Piers! It was a performer who was a kind of contortionist. He could dislocate several parts of his body and make himself fit through really weird things, and in the end he fit himself into a small box! His name is Yogi Lazer and he does it for yoga practice I think (they talk about shakras and stuff during the performance). Anyway that was pretty weird, and I talked to him for a little bit after.
Then I walked down to the river and walked along it. There are some nice parks along the Thames, and a really cool skate park that has a lot of graffiti all over it. I walked all along it, until I got to the London Bridge where I was supposed to meet a friend for some annual event where they let sheep cross the London Bridge. Sounds pretty cool right? Well, sadly the event was cancelled . So I went back to my hostel, changed, and went on a bar crawl. Was not super awesome, but it was cool enough… I wanted to go on the bar crawl to at least say I went out in London, but in retrospect, the bar in the hostel is so awesome I may have had more fun just staying there chatting with travelers.
The next day Emily came to London to see me!!! I was so happy! After we dropped off her stuff at her hostel, we went to Kings Cross station to have our pics taken at platform 9 and ¾ (the famous Harry Potter platform!). We kinda just loafed around in my hostel after that, trying to figure out what to do that night. That night we went to a club called Fabric that’s supposed to be soooo awesome and have good electro music, but it just had crummy house music, but with Emily there it was so much fun that it didn’t matter. I’m so lucky to have met her on CouchSurfing!
On Friday I was so sad to leave Emily yet again (we talk every day trying to reunite since then). I went to Paris on the Eurostar. Was very nice to take the train. It was very fast and easy: you leave from and get into the city, instead of the airports which are outside of the cities. I sat across from an awesome family. They were originally from Texas but moved to England because of work. They have two really cute little boys, and the older one was quite smart. At 2 years old, he looked in the window and said, “Look at my reflection mommy.” I feel like reflection is a big word for such a little kid, and I could tell their parents were very proud. They were headed to Euro Disney.
When I arrived, I stayed at my friend Mickael’s. I was quite tired and sad because I missed Emily. Being back in Paris also brings back a lot of memories from the summer before and when I studied abroad. Mickael and I just walked around talking for a few hours. We sat under the Eiffel Tower and watched it sparkle (every hour for ten minutes it sparkles). It’s very stereotypical to do this, so there were TONS of groups of students (probably all on study abroad) and romantic couples. It made me miss the old friends I had when I was there.
The next day I went and got a phone and did a few errands. Above the Gare Monparnasse is a park, le jardin Atlantique. I had been there in the fall when I had studied abroad and there had been no one there (it was quite cold then). Now it was full of people and there were beautiful waterfalls and plants. When you walk out the back of the park, you are on street level because the Gare (French for trainstation) is on a hill. From this point you can look and see a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower with a tree lined boulevard leading up to it. Beautiful!
That night I met a friend Karim who was a close friend of my friend George from Lebanon. We had met last summer when I had been in Paris. We went to a friend’s apartment for a cool little party with half French and half English speakers. He picked me up on his scooter/motor bike. I had been on a Harley once before, but driving through the streets of Paris was kind of cool, but also kind of scary since I’m a big scardy cat. Karim’s dad was in town, so the next day Karim, his dad, his cousin and I went to a Chinese-French buffet for brunch. It was pretty funny to see eggs, springrolls, sushi, and pain au chocolat all in one buffet.
Later I wandered down the Champs Elysees and then took the metro to St Michel, which I frequented a lot when I was studying abroad. It brought back a lot of memories, and I began to yearn to go back in time. So, naturally, I went to the bars we used to go to in that area. First I went to the Frog & Princess, which has their own beers that they brew. Then I went to the Moose bar, which is an American sports bar and was showing a Yankee’s game, a Buffalo Bills game, and a Jets game. So funny.
Afterwards, I met up with a friend from middle school who is also going to be a teaching assistant outside of Paris. We met at a brasserie for a few drinks to catch up.
The next morning, I was off to Le Havre. I was pretty nervous, because I literally had no idea what to expect. Would there be cool music? Would I meet nice people? Would I practice my French enough? Would the kids I be teaching be a terror? So many worries…
And I’m still a week behind! Fortunately, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights I expect to be pretty slow, so I’ll shoot you another update about Le Havre soon  xoxo
PS: if anyone wants to get emails every time I post a blog, please let me know and there is a way I can do that!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Manchester & London

So when I arrived in Congleton (the small rural town that my friend Gemma lives in outside Manchester) I was so dog tired from all the fun I had in Bristol, that I was kind of glad that Gemma had work from 2-9pm. We spent the evening catching up and chatting late into the night.
The next day we drove into Manchester to meet some of Gemma’s friends and go shopping. Manchester is really cool because the scene there is very trendy vintage. In Manchester I bought my first vintage shirt. We also went to a place called Affleck that is a large warehouse-type place that had lots of boutiques that have second hand clothes and hand made clothes by new designers. Gemma’s sister works there and sells her own label “Vampire Bunnies.” We had lunch in a really cool little coffee shop, I forget what it was called, but it was all vegetarian. Surprisingly, it was actually quite good- I had a baked potato cut open and stuffed with veggie chili and cheddar cheese. These stuffed baked potatoes are found everywhere in England and they’re called jacket potatoes.
Because it was “freshers week” (the week that freshman arrive), going out was very difficult, especially because there are many universities (“unies”) in Manchester. At first it wasn’t so bad, but by the end of the night, every bar had a crazy line outside it, so we went home.
The next day we went for dim sum just outside of Manchester. It was a super authentic restaurant and it even had an Asian supermarket on the first floor where you could buy all kinds of interesting things, including aloe juice (which you drink), a full cooked duck (with head and everything), and Mountain Dew (the real kind that we have in the US; the Dew in England is a gross energy drink). After waiting for close to an hour, we were finally seated. We ordered TONS of different choices and it was all so good. I’m trying to remember now what was the best, but I can’t seem to bring it to mind…
After being stuffed with amazing dim sum, Gemma and I drove back to her home and cat napped and watched TV for the rest of the day.
The following day, I packed my bags and then Gemma and I went to the silk/cotton mill. Manchester during the industrial revolution (and even a bit today) was well known for its silk and cotton production. The museum was awesome because you could go through it and see the different machinery that was invented through time and they actually run the tools so you can see how they work, which is amazing because they are so old. I got to watch a woman use a spinning wheel, as well as the spinning jenny. We also got to watch the machinery from later on, and it was so loud that when it’s fully running you’re only supposed to stay in the room for 10 minutes. The people who worked on the machinery could go deaf from working around the machines. We also got to see how a real waterwheel works- they’re very big!
Then I took the train to Manchester and met a friend from Bestival for a drink. Then I hopped on a train to London. When I arrived in London, I stayed in a hostel that was referred to me by a few people called the Generator. The Generator has this really sick bar in it that’s always bumpin’. I met tons of Aussies, a few Canadians, and one American. It was really fun actually. I didn’t even have to leave the hostel! Pretty sweet.
The next day was pretty gray. Went on a free walking tour that was pretty boring, but at least I got to see a lot of the city. Saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. But all in all it was a pretty boring day. Later on, I met my old housemate, Thea, her friend Jenny who is in London for a bit for an internship. We stopped at a random pub and got bangers and mash, which is sausage and mashed potatoes. Just thinking about it, my stomach is starting to growl. It was so good, and quite a good find. Then I left Jenny to meet my friend Pat after he got off work. He’s the amazing friend who’s holding my bags for me in London while I was travelling. We got to hang out for a bit and I grabbed a few new shirts, since after 2 weeks I’m starting to get sick of the other ones.
Then I went back to the hostel and hit the bar again. I have come to the conclusion that a good hostel is marked by its good bar. No bar, no bueno.
I will try and finish the update as soon as possible!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011


I arrived to London last Wednesday after a hectic flight that almost didn't happen because of terrible rain. The Air Canada terminal was a mess with holes in the roof everywhere so that it was practically raining inside. Pretty funny.
Got into London and it was pretty much freezing cold. The hostel I stayed at was super cheap but not super fun. I was supposed to meet my friend Pat to give him my suitcase, but he was stuck at work til 10pm! So my first night in London was pretty lame.
The next day I took the train to Gatwick airport and met up with the girl I met on Couchsurfer who I was going to camp with at the music festival Bestival. Turns out, she's not crazy, she's actually super super cool and we became really close friends!
The festival was intense. To get there took about 15 hours. I left my hostel in London at like 8am and didn't actually finish setting up the tent until about 11 or 12. So crazy and frustrating.
The festival was pretty insane- there must have been 50,000 people (considered "small" by European festival standards), over 100+ acts, and shows, games, and rides. It was incredible. Everyone was also super nice. I made a ton of friends and luckily its super easy to get a phone here so I was able to keep in touch with people and have already met up with a few of them.
At the festival we asked a ton of people where is the place we should visit in England, and pretty much unanimously everyone said Bristol is a really cool place. So Emily & I went off to Bristol. A guy I met recommended a hostel called the lanes which was located above a bowling alley. It was pretty cool. It was quiet there at the beginning of the week which was good for recovery from the festival, but by Thursday the hostel was pretty full and the students were starting to move into the city for school. The city of Bristol is really cool. There's an amazing music scene and it's known as the origin of dubstep- a type of electronic music I really like. It also has a lot of history. It used to be a major port for exporting slaves to the US. There is a park with a castle in it and a tower that over looks the whole city. There's also one of the 1st suspension bridges in this city, though I didn't see it.
Emily, the girl I went to the festival with, and I spent a day in Bath. It's an ancient city that has a natural hot spring. We got to go to the Roman baths museum, which was actually really cool. It's really well preserved still and at the end of the museum you get to try the "healing" water that comes from it. Supposedly Queen Elizabeth or someone was barren til she drank some water from Bath and then had a baby 10 months later. Hopefully that doesn't happen to me? haha
After, we had tea in the Pump Room. It used to be a ball room for the rich and famous in the 18th century. It was super swanky- my mom would have loved it. There's a charming river that cuts through the town that you can walk along and some old apartments from the aristocracy that used to live there that we scoped out. Then we went to Thermae Bath Spa and got to spend an hour or so in the naturally heated pool. It was just the 2 of us and it was pretty cool. The water was quite warm and it was outside.
So now I'm in Manchester visiting my old suite-mate Gemma from sophomore year. I'm relaxing after a crazy week, watching tv with her sister Ellie and eating tv dinners (Gemma had work today from 2-9, which is good b/c I'm too wiped to do anything anyway). In Manchester til Mon night, and then London until Friday morning. Then off to Paris, though I don't really want to leave :(

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Update from Africa!

I never thought I’d say this, but, greetings from Africa!
Flight was LONG. Flew from NY to London, but because of the blizzard, my flight was delayed and I missed my connection to Nairobi, Kenya. Luckily, I got the last seat on the next flight. Unfortunately, the next flight wasn’t until 7pm that night- and I’d arrived in London at 11am!
When I arrived in Kenya at 6:30am, my friend Julian met me at the airport and we went straight to the bus station to get on a bus to the coast. The bus ride was long- about another 7 hours to Mombasa. It was also terrifying- the bus driver drives in to the other lane to pass a vehicle then swerves back into the lane just in time to not get hit by oncoming traffic. Better than that, the roads are mostly unpaved so it’s pretty bumpy and uncomfortable. And hot. And smelly.
When we got to Mombasa, we took a type of taxi called a pikki pikki or something. It’s a motorbike with a cab on the back that fits 2 or 3 people. More terrifying than the bus, because now there is nothing between you and the oncoming traffic, which we were swerving in and out of.
Then we took a free ferry across water to an island so we could get to the beach at Diani. Ferry is paid for by the gov’t and comes every 15 min or so. I don’t have any idea why they don’t just build a bridge- it’s not that far…
Waiting for the ferry is when I saw an albino for the first time. That was kind of different that you don’t really see in the US… Julian says they’re seen as having magical powers or something, particularly in small villages where superstition often prevails. If you want to read more, here’s an article I googled quickly:
We then took another type of taxi, a dalla dalla, which is more like a large van where they fit as many people as possible in it- think 15 people in an 8 person van. After taking 2 of those, we finally made it to the campsite in Diani and met up with Julian’s friend Ben, who is an Australian teaching in a village in Tanzania about an hour from Arusha. Turns out, most people visiting here are Australian and mostly no Americans at all. A few Canadians and some Brits…
The bus and dallas are nice to take because you get to see the area (as opposed to just flying). Most people take ground transport or walk, but it takes a while and is always hot and crowded.
There is also no sanitation here really- no one uses a trash can but either just throws garbage on the ground or builds a garbage pile and then burns it, which greatly contributes to a general stink in those areas. Awesome.
Camping was fun, but rough. The ground is hard and it’s so hot at night it’s impossible to sleep for long. It’s around 90 degrees near the coast (Arusha’s much cooler since it’s at a higher altitude).
Diani had a lot of foreigners and there were 2 big parties for New Years so that was fun and cool. The beaches are beautiful- pretty desolate, perfect white sand, palm trees lining the beach for miles, very sparse hotels. Where we would sit was mostly where a lot of natives would come and chill, which was cool to see locals hang out. It seems Africans don’t really own bathing suits- they go in the water in their underwear and children go in naked. The problem is, you stick out a lot because you’re white so everyone tries to come over to you and try to get you to buy something from them or get water from you or whatever.
The food was pretty good- 2 of the days we ate in these little shacks on the dirt road to the beach. Freshly caught fish with rice and sauces and bread… Soooo good… Other than that, though, the food is pretty bland and you try not to eat anything too sketchy. So we eat a lot of French fries, toast, rice, and pastas. At the hostel, they provide food for you. Food is pretty good- I think from the heat and sun you get pretty starving, so anything tastes good. There are a lot of veggies, which I think is good, but now were moving out to a house today, so the veggies might get cut back a bit.
I also went on a day safari with Julian and 3 of his friends. I thought it was awesome- I saw ostriches, 5 elephants (including babies!), mearcats, baboons, giraffes, antelope, and warthogs; even lions, though they were far, far away. They thought it was lame and we didn’t see a lot, but since it was my first and all I can compare it to was the safari ride at Busch Gardens, I thought it was excellent! I’ll post pics soon- I need to figure out how to upload them, since the computer I’m using doesn’t have the memory card.
In terms of technology, it’s pretty cool here. I already have a phone for less than $40 and it’s not locked, so I can use it where ever, I would just need to buy a new chip. And the internet is really cool. The connections not very strong (it cuts out a lot) but instead of WiFi they have internet sticks and you can buy credit ($20 for 1 month unlimited internet) and you just plug the stick into the USB port and can use the internet anywhere. Basically, you have wireless broadband where ever you go! It’s pretty cool- you don’t need a box or anything!
Cars also drive on the left side. Which often leaves me looking in the wrong direction when crossing the street. Cars don’t always stop for red lights either.
Arusha’s pretty nice. It’s a little city (municipality, really). Not much to do around here except volunteer and chill, which is good.
Just moved out of the hostel and into a house with a bunch of other kids. House is beautiful. Will upload pics soon!