Archive for December, 2009

Servus, Salzburg

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Servus is Austrian/Bavarian dialect for both hello and goodbye. It’s the German “aloha.” And while I’ve been home for two weeks already, it still kind of smarts to think that we ever had to say goodbye to Salzburg and to each other. Our last weekend excursion took me, Rachel, Rachelle, Kirsten, and Phil out to the little town of Oberndorf with Frau Schoettke to see the little chapel where “Silent Night” was first written and sung. It was dark and cold, but we walked around a bit and laughed at our ability to stand with one foot in Austria and one foot in Germany for a portion of the trek. Austria decorated for Christmas will always be one of my favorite memories, and Oberndorf and the towns around it did not disappoint in the decorations department. The chapel itself was impossibly tiny but well worth seeing. Just when we all thought we’d freeze for being out in the cold for so long, a friend of Frau Schoettke’s invited us all back to his house for tea and Christmas cookies. He and his wife stuffed us full of delicious foodstuffs and talked to us in a combination of German and English about all of the things we had done and seen while in Austria. And we rather enjoyed tormenting their two cats, Sammy and Selena. When we caught the train back to Salzburg later that evening we laughed and talked about things yet to be done and purchased and homework yet to be turned in. Our days in Austria were rapidly coming to an end.

I had a final exam on Monday as well as some half hearted attempts at cleaning and packing and some not-so-half-hearted purchasing of epic amounts of chocolate and gummy bears to bring home. Tuesday we woke up to snow, Salzburg’s wonderful way of seeing us off. Packing began in earnest on Tuesday, and Rachelle and I plotted out how we were going to finish all of the food in our kitchen before leaving Thursday morning. We dumped a lot of our stuff, lucky them, on our friends who are staying in Salzburg for the full year. Tuesday night we walked through the snow to the other dorm, Haus Humboldt, to laugh a lot and take our minds off of leaving. And laugh we did. Nearly everyone showed up at one point or another, and we got to witness one last mass panic when the dorm staff unplugged the Stiegl beer machine. Just before leaving we took notice of the shopping cart that had been hanging around the Haus Humboldt kitchen all night just waiting for me and Rachelle to climb in. Together we barely fit, but the real mistake was allowing Phil and Max control over where we were going. Somehow, we made it out of the situation alive. As it turns out, Phil took over the role of shopping cart passenger on the way out, and Zach, for better or worse, offered to steer the cart back down the street to our dorm. It wasn’t long until both Phil, and Rachelle, who had climbed on as well by that point, were both on the ground in the snow. Phil persevered, however, and he and Zach decided to take us on a snowy midnight detour down a random road behind the dorms. One thing led to another, and before we knew it we were in the middle of a playground in the woods. This playground held significant entertainment value because of its zip line. So there we were, the five of us coming up with new and ingenious ways of flying down the zip line, at nearly one in the morning, in the snow, in the woods, and with an 8:30 am class the next morning. Somehow no one died, though Phil’s ill conceived plan to run up a slide could have ended in a concussion, and we laughed harder than any of us had in a while, which, considering the amount of laughter that surrounded us on a regular basis, is saying something. When our fingers were numb and we had snow down our backs, we finally made it back to the dorm, where Phil managed to fall out of the shopping cart yet again. I think the clock read something around 2 by the time I climbed into bed that night.

We were tired the next morning, and most of us had bruises to show for many failed attempts at maneuvering on an icy playground, but I made it through my three classes that day as well as miraculously fit all my things into my two suitcases. That night after our Culture final exam, some of us went out for one last kebap before heading to O’Malley’s to suffer the inevitable goodbyes. Virtually the entire group, all 36 of us, sat around the otherwise empty bar (It was only 7 o’clock, mind you) and chatted and reminisced. Eventually everyone was on their feet, singing and dancing and laughing like it was just any other night out. That mood collapsed when, almost simultaneously, we all broke down and started crying. I’m sure the rest of the bar’s occupants thought we were all insane. Rachel and Kirsten were two of the first to leave, and so Rachelle and I were a bit of a mess from the start. Then, as people began making their exits in ones and twos, you would no sooner get over one goodbye before having to hug and cry over someone else’s departure. Almost everyone, guys and girls alike, was red eyed by the time we decided to leave.

When we got back to good old IK, we had to eat the rest of our food, so we made a second dinner of leftovers and the dozens of sausages Phil had failed to cook at a reasonable time. What followed was a ridiculous night involving Rachelle, Max and I collapsing on Zach’s bed while he and Phil tormented us with a “who can pick the saddest song and make the girls cry contest.” I do believe Phil won that one when he decided to be absolutely evil and play “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” But we had to laugh too as we watched all of Zach’s completely ridiculous video diaries from the semester. His atrocious camera work and very Zach-like commentary deserved all of the mocking they received, but at least they kept smiles on our faces. All too soon 2 am rolled around, and Rachelle had to meet the van that would take her to Munich for a 7 am flight. We’d been bracing for what we both knew would be the hardest goodbye, and we cried good and hard for a few minutes before I had to rip the band aid off and let her go. After her leaving, and some more crying, I eventually attempted to get some sleep before my own 8:45 taxi to the airport.

In reality, I only slept for a few hours and was awake again by 6. I sat in Phil and Zach’s room as they put the finishing touches on their own packing up before their 7 am van. I cried again saying goodbye to the two of them and Jessica. When my eyes finally hurt so badly that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to cry again I took a shower, took out the trash, and packed up the last of my own stuff. Max came over to help lug my huge bags down the three flights of stairs, and all too soon it was my turn to leave. There were six of us in our van, and we started out the drive to Munich telling stories from the night before and laughing about all of the things we were going to miss about Salzburg and each other. Then our long nights caught up to us, and we slept the rest of the way to the airport.

Once in Munich, things just got more interesting. When we checked in at the British Airways counter many of us discovered our bags were overweight, and, according to one BA employee, simply wouldn’t make it through our connection in London if we didn’t get them lighter. I managed to reach the weight limit just by moving my German dictionary and one other heavier item into my smaller suitcase. Other friends were not so fortunate. Jimmy found himself throwing away his shoes. Ryan came over to all of us with his arms full of clothes he had pulled out of his bag. Obviously not able to carry a wad of clothing on the plane as a carry on, he then proceeded to put many of those shirts on. Needless to say, that was entertaining. Meanwhile Ryan and some of the other girls who had arrived in a different van discovered that their flight had been changed to an earlier one so as to ensure that they would have time to catch their connecting flight to Boston in London. This left Jimmy, another Boston-bound kid, confused as to why his flight had also not been changed. Everyone rushed through security to get the Bostonites to their flight on time, and we found ourselves greeted by another group of AIFs kids at the gate. Turns out the earlier flight was the same one that our friends who had left Salzburg at 7 were on. This meant one last round of goodbyes before those of us remaining settled in to wait for our afternoon flight. A one hour delay meant we waited longer than we had intended. Jimmy saw his chances of making his flight home dwindle by the minute. When we finally got on the way to London we were all a bit relieved. Except poor Jimmy whose only consolation came from the fact that the flight attendant assured him he would make his connection because he had brought his running shoes, the lone pair of shoes that had made it through the earlier purge and which he was now carrying by the laces. Minutes before landing this same flight attendant informs him that his flight has in fact been changed to one leaving two hours later, so he’s alright after all. Once we land in London, we somehow manage to drive practically the full way around Heathrow as we wait for crew to de-ice planes. The three of us headed to Philadelphia are growing increasingly concerned at this point because our connecting flight is leaving in less than an hour and we have yet to be anywhere near to getting off of the plane. When we finally disembark we have to go through security yet again where we said quick goodbyes to the girls headed for JFK, and what was originally scheduled to be a three hour layover in London ultimately ended up being a case of having to run to the gate only to get there and find them already boarding. Of course by boarding I mean putting us all on buses and sending us halfway across London to wherever they had managed to park our plane. Once on board we of course managed to sit on the tarmac for over an hour before takeoff. Lots of fun. Somehow, I suppose because the pilot managed to, in his words, “put the pedal to the metal,” we only landed in Philly a mere ten minutes later than scheduled. Our long day of epic travel and tears was ended. At this point my internal clock was striking somewhere around 3 in the morning and begging me to go to bed, but I managed to stay relatively awake and coherent for my parents on the drive home.

Jet lag was not my friend for my first few days home. I found myself keeping the hours of an 85 year old woman, going to bed at 9 and getting up at 7:30. But I’ve since adjusted. And it has been good being home for the holidays and seeing friends and relatives I hadn’t seen in so long. But I remain terrible at goodbyes and looking through the nearly 700 photo prints I got in the mail a few days ago has done little to convince me that I wouldn’t drop everything and head back to Salzburg tomorrow if I could pick right back up where we left off. Those three months were more than I ever could have asked for, in every way possible. More fun, more exhausting, more educational, more challenging, more jam-packed full of laughs and friends and languages and Kodak moments than any three months have any real right to be. I learned a lot about Europe, about the US, and about my own ability to take everything as it comes as well as the fine art of laughing when you’re starving but dinner is taking two hours because your two little burners barely work and you don’t have a microwave. I wouldn’t trade a single moment. Many thanks to the best group of new friends a person could have, a group of people who played a huge role in helping to make the experience the chaotic, entertaining cultural exchange that it was. So, Servus Salzburg, with your so-pretty-they-look-fake mountains and church bells and pastry shops on every corner. You will be missed. ‘Till next time.

Snow Be Gone!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

snow in Ohio :P

It’s 22˚ with a grey haze of snow covering every inch of the view from the small window of the back seat of my family’s minivan. We’re on our way home from Christmas in Ohio, and the 85˚, sunny cabins of San Ignacio’s Log Cabin Inns are looking mighty fine in comparison to the snowball of a region that the east coast has become.

Belize is a small country in Central America, first settled by English and Scottish pirates in the 17th century, and now an English-speaking, largely black Creole outpost known mostly for it’s leading “ecotourism” destinations. I leave for a semester of studying sustainable development and oceanography at Galen University in San Ignacio, Belize on January 7th, 2010!

I’m getting super excited to experience a new culture, new adventures, new friends and great food, but I’m definitely going to miss everyone from the states! I’m still figuring out this whole blog thing, but check out the “Talk to Me!” tab for my address and other ways to keep in touch! One last thing: I’m not sure how these things normally work, but I’m going to keep the entries for my blog pretty short, with more fun facts, stories and photos than boring information about myself. Just thought I’d give you all a heads up in case you were expecting a Tori in Belize novel by the end of the semester ????

Alright, so until I leave for a different time zone, happy New Year, have a wonderful last week of break, I love and miss you all already! peace.

Best of…

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Here are my list of favourite songs and albums from 2009. The one thing I realized from making this list is that I didn’t listen to many whole albums and more individual songs (damn you Zune!) and that my taste in music has expanded considerably over the course of the year. Also, per usual, my list doesn’t match up with any other list I’ve read this year save for the inclusion of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in my top songs list. And Miike Snow and Franz Ferdinand. Everything else is just proof of how not indie I really am.

Top 15 Songs (In No Particular Order)

Top 5 Albums (In a Kind of Order)**

  1. Miike Snow – Miike Snow
  2. The Boy Who Knew Too Much – Mika
  3. It’s Not Me, It’s You – Lily Allen
  4. Tonight – Franz Ferdinand
  5. La Roux – La Roux

Honorable Mentions for Top Albums

  • Fortress ‘Round My Heart – Ida Maria
  • Ignore the Ignorant – The Cribs
  • Fruit – The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

Albums I Wish Had Been Better (Or That I Would Have Liked to Have Liked Better)

  • Quicken the Heart – Maximo Park
  • It’s Frightening – White Rabbits
  • Humbug – Arctic Monkeys
  • Strict Joy – The Swell Season
  • The Resistance – Muse

And finally an explanation for the album order: As with my choice for my favourite Mika song, I didn’t want to be too obvious in picking my #1, so I went with the most consistently really good album. From there I ordered the albums according to a) how consistently good they were and b) how many tracks I consider to be above par. Hence why Franz Ferdinand comes after Lily Allen (the entire end of the album being crap as compared to the one or two tracks being not very good.) As mentioned in my foot note for this section, there are albums that I probably would have included if I had listened to them in their entirety :cough: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Noisettes, Gossip:cough: and some I’m sure I would have included if they had been released in the US this year :cough:VV Brown, Little Boots:cough: So there’s the logic for my top 5 albums. There is no logic for my top 15 songs because I basically just picked songs that I listened to a lot that were released in 2009.

*I picked this based on the fact that a) “We Are Golden” is too obvious and b) it’s the second most listened to song according to Zune from that album.
**The problem with this category is that a lot of the albums I would like to included (I’m sure) haven’t been released in the US. That and the fact that I didn’t listen to many whole albums from 2009, just individual songs. I plan on emending that for some artists, but again I’m limited by what has and hasn’t been released in the US.

In the beginning…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

…there were goodbyes.  Tonight begins those.

I wanted my departure to be immediate when this trip was just a glimmer in my eye, but my tune has changed since August.  I am very excited, please do not misunderstand me.  I guess I have always been awful at departing people and places I love.

Bargaining in Beijing

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

You can read a lot of bargaining tips online to assure you are not getting ripped off (i.e. your first counter-offer should be a quarter of the amount the seller gives you).  The one piece of advice I wish I saw on every site was to tell me to enter these supermarkets with balls of steel and to never let go of them.  If one does not hold their ground when haggling with these inhuman shopkeepers, you will either find yourself withdrawing unnecessary amounts of cash from the ATM, or just flat-out making a fool of yourself.  It also helps to know what you want to buy and how much you intend to pay.  For instance, I wanted to buy a pair of basketball shoes because Ben bought a pair of Adidas for 70RMB (about $10).  I thought I could get a pair of baller-kicks for under 100RMB, so I went and sought my own adventure.  The following is a textual depiction of how I bought a pair of yellow and black Air Jordans from these Wicked Witches of the East.

(David is walking through the market when a 5′3″ woman grabs his arm and pinches his skin with her 3-inch faux nails)

Demon Seller:  Hello you look-ah for shoes?  We have very good quality shoe for very good quality price.  Come inside my shop.  (David walks inside the shop, clenching his arm)

DS:  Which one you like-ah?  All good quality.

Me:  I like those yellow ones.  Can I try them on?

DS:  Of course.  You look-ah Chinese.  You speak-uh Chinese?

Me:  No, I’m Filipino.

DS:  You look-uh like Chinese.  (David tries on the shoes and continues to b.s. with the seller.  He likes the shoes and they fit well.  The battle begins)

Me:  I like these.  How much are they?

DS:  Okay.  These shoes.  Very good quality.  The best-ah.  (She takes out a calculator) Original price is…(types 1,400 RMB).  But because you look-uh Chinese, I give you good price-uh (types 1,200RMB)

Okay, so at this moment I freak out in horror, and I make sure my face shows it.  My plan of buying a pair of shoes for under 100RMB is kaput.  But I stay true to myself.

Me:  Wow, I think that is too expensive.  I cannot afford that.

DS:  Okay, you give me your best price-uh.  (David types in 30RMB.  The Demon Seller looks at him blankly, then looks at the calculator, then back at David, and begins to laugh).  What, you pay in Euro???  That’s impossible price-uh for me.  I give you four numbers and you give me only two.  That price impossible.

Me:  Okay, 35 RMB.

DS:  (LOL) C’mon, impossible.  These shoe, best quality.  Make just like American shoes.

Me:  Um, I think the shoes are good quality, but not the best quality.  So I don’t think they are worth 1,200 RMB.  I think they are worth 35 RMB.

DS:  Hahahah, you are very joke-ah.  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  No, no, no.  I do want the shoes.  But can you please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay, okay.  I give you this price-uh (types 1,150 on the calculator)

Me:  No way.  That’s just way too expensive.  I think you “joke-ah.”  I’ll give you 40 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  I lose money.

Me:  Fine, 45 RMB.

DS:  I don’t think you want these shoes.

Me:  I do want these shoes, but your price is too expensive.  Nobody will buy these shoes for that much.  I’ll give you 50RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  You really joke-uh.

Me:  60 RMB.

DS:  (LOL and turns away).  I think you go somewhere else.

Okay, so at this point I feel like I’m losing this battle.  I’m thinking that I’m going to have to pay more than 100 RMB.  Maybe like 300 or 400 RMB.  I don’t want that to happen.  Even the nearby shopkeepers are listening to our conversation and hackling my outrageous efforts.  But I continue to dig through my guts.  It’s time for these tables to turn.

Me:  Okay, maybe I will go somewhere else.  But I know you don’t want me to.  Nobody is buying your shoes.  I am your only customer right now.  I know I can go somewhere else and buy these shoes cheaper.

DS:  Okay, you go-ah.

Me:  I don’t want to because I think you are pretty and I want to buy these shoes from you (I, unfortunately, actually said this).

DS:  Oh, you joke-ah.

Me:  I don’t.  I’ll give you 70 RMB.

DS:  Impossible.  My final price is 1,000.

Me:  80RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.

Me:  I lose money too if I pay that much.  These shoes are not worth 1,000RMB.  These shoes are worth 80 RMB.  You will lose money if I don’t buy these shoes from you, because nobody else will come here and buy these shoes.  You have many many many shoes in your store.  I don’t think people are buying shoes from you.  But I want to buy shoes from you.  Please make your price lower.

DS:  Okay.  You give your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  90RMB.

DS:  You joke-uh.

Me:  Okay, then I go.  Bye-bye.  (David stands up from the chair and proceeds to head out.  Demon Seller steps in front of him and puts her hand on his chest)

DS:  Okay, I give you 900.

Me:  Too expensive.  I am leaving now.

DS:  No no no.  You give me best maximum price.

Me;  Okay…my best price is 100RMB.

DS:  C’mon, I lose money.  800.

Me:  No, bye-bye.  (David successfully walks out the store this time.  He makes it a couple feet out and Demon Seller is not continuing to bargain, like he was told on the interent would happen if he walked away.  And just when his hopes were about to go away…)

DS:  Okay, I give you 700 RMB.

Me:  Nope.  100 RMB.

DS:  Okay, this is my final final price.  You take it or leave it okay?  (She types in 500 on the calculator)

Me:  No.  Too expensive.  I will go now.

DS:  C’mon.  Give me your best maximum price-uh.

Me:  Fine.  105RMB.

DS:  Oh you joke-uh.

Me.  Okay, then I leave.  (David walks away, this time he makes it to the stairwell.  Demons Seller yells from her store and runs after him).

DS:  Okay, 400!

Me:  No thank you.

DS:  200!

Me:  Too expensive.  Bye-bye.

DS:  Oh, you too difficult.

Me:  So are you.  Bye-bye.  (David walks away)

DS:  150!

Now, I probably should have taken this price.  But I noticed how quickly her prices went down when she got to the mid-hundreds, so I figured this should end with me paying my price.  So I continued to be “difficult.”  If I lost these shoes, so what.  I personally thought I already lost this battle just because I intended to pay way less than 100RMB.

Me:  No thank you.  (David walks through doors and is about to go down the stairs).

DS:  (In a very disgruntled and exhausted voice that also inferred defeat).  OKAY!  COME BACK!

Me:  105?

(DS nods reluctantly) DS:  You are very impossible, you know?

Me:  I know.  Thank you.

$15 Air Jordans (made and haggled for in China)

$15 Air Jordans (made, and haggled for, in China)

My name is Lee. I hope you enjoy reading.

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

My very first post to a blog ever!  I am sitting in my dining room typing this out, though maybe I should be at a Borders or Starbucks.  However, very soon I will be tapping these out at my school or in an Internet cafe in Peru!

The whole reason for this blog (this is not a comprehensive list, just what I think the blog will become as of now) – a) document my adventure b) keep in touch with friends back at UMW and c) an outlet.  The third aspect of the blog possessing a special utility.

I will be living in Cuzco, Peru with a Spanish speaking family of five and going to a school where only Spanish is allowed.  I know the first month or so is going to be very taxing on my brain.  Thus the blog becoming a place for English.  I hope eventually however, I will write in Spanish for short bits, or even whole posts as my new language skills progress.

I want to write something you look forward to reading.  I will try my best to keep my posts interesting and short.  I grew up in a southern Baptist church where I sat and sat and sat eventually spacing off and not hearing a word from the pastor.  I will not do that to you!

On that note I will say goodbye.  Adios.

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

On Christmas Eve, I’ll be on an overnight train headed to Beijing, arriving Christmas morning and staying for two days.  Pretty cool, huh?  I’m very excited to see what China is like on Christmas Day, and I’ll make sure to let you know what it’s like too.

Before I go, I just want to say to all my friends and family, Merry Christmas!  Enjoy the holiday, play in the snow (I heard the East Coast has been getting inches and inches of it!), and keep my presents under the tree!  I’ll be back before you know it…

Happy Holidays

Xmas cards from my students

Xmas cards from my students

A New and Improved Purpose

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

So I’m requisitioning this blog for a new purpose: a thorough record of my semester in London. I’ll still post reviews (of which I hope there will be many) but I’ll also be posting about my classes, living in London, and any other being-in-a-foreign-country-related things. So let’s start with a description of the three classes I’m signed up for thus far:

Music Radio
This class is the one that confuses me the most in terms of scheduling. We meet twice a week from 10am to 5pm but it’s only listed for meeting for the first half of the semester. Which confuses me because I’m getting a full 15 credits for it (4 in the American system). But in terms of content I’m really glad I got into the class because it’s going to teach me an invaluable skill: How to incorporate quizzes into my radio show. That and other technical stuff that will be really good to know once I graduate from free form radio to regular programmed radio. Also one of the books we’re suppose to read for the course I’ve already read, so that’s nice.
Law and the Music Market
Contracts! We meet once a week for two hours where in I will learn about intellectual property, copyrights and you, and contracts! I’m actually really quite excited about this class because…well because I am. The copyright and intellectual property stuff is actually very pertinent what with illegal downloading and mash-ups and all that good stuff. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s going to be interesting dammit. Even if I can’t explain why.
Principles of Music Marketing
This is the class I’m least excited about largely because I have no plans for going into music marketing. Sure it will be interesting from an intellectual standpoint and in terms of transfer credits it will do quite nicely, but in terms of real life interest…not so much. So yeah.
Well those are my classes. I have three more weeks until I’m actually in London so unless something super exciting and related to my studies and/or reviews pop up (or I finally get down to reviewing the Cribs and Arctic Monkeys most recent albums) there won’t be any updates until at least Jan. 17th (day before orientation.) I may post a “best of” list at the beginning of Jan. but don’t count on it. So yeah. Welcome to my new and improved blog.

Hello world!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Welcome to UMW Blogs. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging! If you need some help getting started please refer to the support documentation here.

1st Post

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

I am studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland for the spring semester! I leave in early January!