Archive for June, 2010

Hello!!!

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Hello from Quito!. Yes, I landed safely in spite of the storms and have had a fabulous few days.

So, leaving DC was interesting. Emma, mom and I got to the airport, got my bags out, said our good byes. Then, I walked away to the doors, and…….nothing. They wouldn´t open because those particular doors were still locked. It was so funny – and it completely ruined the moment.

Then, turbulence. On the flight to Houston it was so bad I found myself wishing that I hadn´t rewatched the pilot of Lost with my father. And they weren´t kidding about being in seat 1A. <there was no one beside me, and I was so close to the cockpit, the pilot and I could´ve had a slumber party. The flight Houston to Quito was similar. The turbulence wasn´t so bad, but it was so constant for three and a half hours that everyone on the plane turned green. Just watching the movie made me sick the plane was shaking so much.

So, we landed late at 11:30. Customs till 12. Then ANOTHER line to re-scan the bags. I didn´t exit till close to 12:45. Thankfully, the family was still there to meet me with a sign and a smile.

<the host family are absolutely lovely people. There´s Lupe and Jorge, both 60 who live in a lovely little flat in down town Quito. I spent the entire weekend with them and their family. They have three sons: Jorge Esteban, Diego, and Felipe. Diego and Jorge Esteban are both married, while Felipe lives with his girlfriend. All are absolutely the most lovely, welcoming people ever.

There´s a lot to get used to here. First: the lack of hot water. Oh. my. god. My first shower in sixty degree weather to ice cold water was….not funny. Aparently, shower water can get warm, it´s just broken. They´re working on repairing it, and it should be done tomorrow. But until then…

Second: perpetual spring. It stays between 50 and 66 degrees here all the time. Which is really nice during the day. At night, however, when there is no heat, it gets…really really cold. Elisa, you know all those times I complained the apartment was too cold at 71 degrees? I aparently lied. I mean, we have lots of blankets, but 50 is 50. <but, i´m starting to get used to it in spite of myself.

Three- food. I am simply not used to having soup at every meal. But, good. Lupita is a wonderful cook.

So, we visited this awesome archaeological, pre-inca site called the Rumipamba. It was awesome, with a gorgeous outlook of the city. I´m still not used to the altitude, so, it got m really out of breath. <But it was still fun. We also walked around the neighborhood some and went to a park to look over the colonial center and at the Panecillo. I can´t wait to visit the colonial center. I hope to have time to do it soon.

I started class today.This week – one on one spanish lessons and culture-history lessons. Next week we dive into teaching. Woohoo.

So, that´s it so far. I´m great, Quito is great (I can´t get over the beauty of being surrounded by mountains), and everything is going well.

For future travelers – altitude adjustment meds. No joke, they´re awesome. And they work wonders. I´ve only ever felt a little sick to my stomach, but nothing worse.

Hasta luego!!!!!

Days in Sydney

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

I’ve been in Sydney for about a week now; it’s crazy how time flies by!

There’s so much to see and do here and it’s awesome I’ve been surrounded by friends. It’s kind of sad though that everyone is leaving. So hard to leave Marieke and my other friends in Towns, then Inga left this afternoon and my friend Kristen is leaving tonight!

Watching them leave I guess makes me ready to leave too, because it wouldn’t be as much fun in Australia without this people.

Can’t believe I only have 12 days left in Oz!

Testing. Testing.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Hi!

Welcome to my personal blog for my year teaching in Ecuador (which, if you’re reading this…you probably already know about it)

I’m hoping this blog gets used as a way to stay in touch, and to let you all see photos and hear stories about all the crazy stuff I’m going to use.

If you’re reading this (which, I hope I’m not going to do this for nothing), you can either know I’ve posted something b/c I’ll place it on my facebook wall, or subscribe through the RSS reader using Google Reader or another tool. Oh, and comment if you want to here or on Facebook (it’ll let me know you’ve been here and I love hearing from you guys ^_-)

So, I hope you enjoy this if you’re reading this. And, no, the photo up there is not Quito. Yet. It will be once I take a good photo of the city and upload it.

2 more days. Awesome.

Thanksgiving in June?! Only in Australia

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Friday, June 18th, was our last night as a full group. Today, my friend Suzanne left for the States Saturday because she has an internship in San Fransico starting Monday! As a final Who-Rah we all made a huge Thanksgiving dinner! The boys were in charge of the Chicken, because its impossible to find a turkey here, and then the rest of us all brought a different dish, pot luck style! I could not believe how well we pulled it off! The boys put a few tables together and a bunch of random chairs, including a few outdoor porch chairs, and we all sat and shared one last meal together. It was so special…one of our friends said a touching prayer before we ate, and then afterwards, we went around and said our favorite thing about everyone and our favorite memory…it sounds extrememly corny, and as much as the boys complained about not wanting to do it, it ended up being the most amazing moment. Everyone spoke so highly of everyone, and it was really cool to hear what people had to say about me. After we had gone around and talked about everyone and shared our favorite memories we looked at the clock and it was 2am! Little did we know we had been sitting at the table for 4 hours laughing, crying, and just reminising on the past 5 months! I truly have the best group of friends here..they have helped me grow and become a better person, and for that I can never say thank you enough. Each person on this trip has touched me and inspired me to be a better person. I have truly been blessed.

Almost There

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I guess I will talk about my weekend first…

Friday was exhausting. I woke up really early (okay fine 9am but that’s really early for me now) and ran down to the Retiro bus station to meet Elena and buy tickets to Brazil (yes I said BUS tickets). Then we walked to the Brazilian Consulate hoping it would be quick and easy and they would grant us visas even though we didn’t bother obtaining all of the requirements. And they did! We just had to go back to pick them up on Monday. I’m all set to enter Brazil whenever I want until 2020. (Argentina, too. So start planning!)

Afterward I really wanted to go home and sleep but it was a nice day so I met Trisha and we went to the Rose Gardens and went paddle boating! Then to the Japanese Gardens, too. I’m trying to check as many things off of my list as possible! I should update with pictures but it is a lot of work so that will have to wait until later.

Saturday morning I woke up to the sounds of Argentina scoring! Then I went to go volunteer, but I checked my e-mail about two minutes too early and hadn’t yet received the e-mail about the activity being canceled. (It rained all day.) I went all the way to Recoleta and back and was very wet by the time I got home.

Because of  Brazil, volunteering will have to begin in July. That’s what I’ll be doing until I leave. I’m still trying to move my flight up though but there are no seats available. Yet.  I’m sure I’ll be happy volunteering but hopefully I can still get a few days in AND be able to come home sooner!

Sunday I went to Palermo and San Telmo like I basically do every Sunday but this time I actually did a good job getting presents. We ate at El Desnivel again and it was delicious! Steak, beer and french fries yum!

Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday have involved a lot of take home finals and late nights. But school ends TOMORROW thank goodness. Most of the time I still can’t believe I’m here. And now I am saying my goodbyes!

No man’s land.

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

I hate the feeling you have when you are ready to do something but you can’t do it until a certain time.

For example I have a presentation to give at 11am, make up for the one I missed because of my accident, and I am so ready to give it now! I just want to get it over with because until I give it, I can’t start studying for my final tomorrow.

But now I have nothing really to do for 50 minutes and it is so boring! I’m in no-man’s land just waiting and wasting time that could be better spent.

Only 2 1/2 days left in Townsville! Too bad my exam tomorrow is at 5pm, because that means I have to spend all day studying because if I decide to do something else and I do poorly on my exam (60% of my grade, eeek!) then I will definitely regret it!

Bright news is I got an D+ (Distinction Plus!) on my Cinema paper! Woo hoo! It’s strange to have it be one of the few times in my life I will ever be happy for that grade!

Horse Races and Sandboarding!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I know, can you believe it?? 2 posts in one week! I am on a roll! :)

So this weekend was our last weekend as a complete group since one of my friends, Suzanne, leaves Saturday! What I love about this group is that if they want to do something, theyll do it! No holding back because youre only in Australia once!

Saturday we all got dressed up and went to the Brisbane Horse Races!! Even though we were completely underdressed in our sundresses and sandals, it was still so much fun! We sipped on champaigne, got our makeup “touched up” (they put more make up on me than I evverrr put on my face normally), got mini manicures (yes, at the races!), and watched all the fancy ladies walk around it their overpriced boutique dresses and gigantic hats/ head pieces. I felt like I was in the 1920′s, it was great! You should have seen the size of these things the ladies wore on their heads..all different shapes and colors, all trying to out do each other. We watched the races and of course bet on a few horses! Unlike most people there with their 20 and 50 dollar bills, we bet our 1 piece coins haha! Unfortunately, the horse I bet on didnt even place, but it was still so fun to cheer them on!

Sunday we all packed up early and headed to the train station to go to North Stradebrook Island, an island right off the coast of Brisbane! We took a ferry over there that was so relaxing because the weather this weekend was perfect, so the sun warmed us and the sailed to the island. Once we got to “Straddy” we were planning on taking a few walks and checking out the town but we ended up finding this amazing lookout right off of the town that looked over an ocean full of dolphins! We watched them for a good half hour and then ended up somehow all laying down together, resting in the sunshine. I dont remember what we exactly talked about but I know for the next 2 hours we laughed a lot and told stories/memories of our past 5 months together..boy does time fly!! At 2 we headed off to go sandboarding!!! The company we went through drove us up to these sanddunes, gave us some sandboards, which look just like snowboards, and said “have at it!”. Of course no safetly instructions or cautions in Australia haha! For then next few hours we found every possible way to fly down the sanddunes; forwards, backwards, on our stomachs, with a partner,…we even attempted to connect 7 boards together and all sit on them in a line and go down! Needless to say we failed, but it was hilarious watching us attempt..everyone got a kick out of watching us organize the world record sandboard haha! We ended up splitting into two groups and going down with 5 people and then 6 people. I was in the 6 person group and by the time we finallllllyyy ended up moving down the dune, I was in the middle of the 2 boards, not sitting on either, with sand just filling up my shorts!! haha! We all cracked up the entire way down because my roommate Allie was on the front barely holding on, I was in the middle getting LOADED with sand, and the boys were in the back trying to pick me up and hold me over a board!! At the bottom we crashed, rolled all over each other, and layed there for a few good minutes laughing our heads off…Success?? I think so!

Ok my computer is quickly dying and I stupidly forgot to bring my battery to campus! See you all in 9 days!!

Let’s go to the beach!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Today we woke up to just beautiful weather. We decided that this is the perfect day for the beach. After slowly waking up and waiting for the bus, we headed for the beaches in Nice in the afternoon. When we go there, we realized that this beach is different from most of the other beaches we have seen because there is no sand just small, smooth rocks and pebbles. It was nice that we did not end up leaving with sandy feet and clothes. When we got there, unfortunately the clouds were rolling in at that time, but it was nice to relax and read by the Mediterranean. My sister and I put our feet in when we first got there, but we decided not to go swimming because the waves were too big for us. As I was looking out onto the water, I kept seeing these small white birds skiming the water and then diving straight in! They were trying to catch fish and we actually saw one catch a fish. It was funny watching them because they would first fly higher and nose dive right into the water. I have never seen a bird do that. We all of the sudden heard some fighter planes shoot out from the airport and display a short show for everyone on the beach. Then the colors red, white, and blue shot out from the tailpipes of the planes. They were celebrating the 150th birthday of Nice becoming part of France.

Around 5:30 we decided to head to the old town of Nice and look for a restaurant for dinner since we did not have lunch. This part of Nice was beautiful. There were narrow alleyways with high buildings connected by lines of laundry hanging out the windows. The green shutters against the yellow walls just made the area look so wonderful. A lot of the architecture we have seen reminds us more of Italy. We recently found out that Nice used to be a part of Italy until the 1800s when it became a part of France. After enjoying a nice dinner in the heart of the old town, we decided to walk around and explore. We saw some touristy shops that we loved looking around. Do you know how they have all different souveniers with peoples names? Well, my mom and I always look for my name, Justine, and never find it. We found it two times back in the United States and had to buy those two things. This time I looked, like I always do, and I found my name!! I found my name on a ruler and then on a pen, and then on a coin purse…it was everywhere! We asked the person who worked there if “Justine” was a common name in France. He said yes it is very common because it is a French name. I found a necklace with my name on it and I had to buy it. I was meant to come to France!

I wish we had more time to just wander and get lost in Nice, but we had to get back to the bus station to go back to Vence. Unfortunately we missed the bus and had to take a taxi back. I am planning to go back to Nice some other time this week and explore the old town and other districts.

My Life in France

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Before I went to France I wanted a good book I could read on the beach. Since I loved the movie Julie and Julia so much, I wanted to get the book that the movie was based on. While I was in the bookstore in Edinburgh, I saw a book titled “My Life in France” by Julia Child. I asked the people who worked there if this is what the movie is based off of. They said yes. So I bought the book, but then I realized that it was actually a biography about Julia Child and her time living in France. It was not about Julie Powell at all. I considered returning it, but after reading some good reviews online I decided to keep it. I think it would be good to read since I am here in France. I am so glad I accidentally stumbled upon this book because it is turning out to be so interesting. Today I was reading about her trip to Monaco in 1950 where she stayed at the Hotel de Paris! I cannot believe that I was in that exact hotel yesterday. All of the people, food, and culture that she references to is so relevant to my vacation I am just loving every page of this book.

Bojour!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I am in France! This is my first time out of the UK since January. I flew from Newcastle and met my family in Nice. We are renting a house in Vence which is a small town about 15 miles outside of Nice. The house we are staying in was built in the 1200s and even better than what I expected. Since this is a small town, not everyone speaks English, so we manage by looking up words in the phrase book, speaking broken French my dad learned in High School, and by using a lot of hand gestures. Everyone is very nice and some people try to speak English to us even if they know just a few words.

The day after we arrived in France, we started our morning with a Cafe Au Lait which is a very small, but strong cup of coffee (we all needed it). There are so many cafes with outdoor seating which is wonderful to just sit and absorb in the surroundings. Sometimes just sipping on a cup of coffee and people watching is the best part of traveling. Since it might rain later in the week, we decided to go to Monaco on the first day instead of on Tuesday. My dad and sister wanted to take a relaxing day to orient themselves to Vence, so my mom and I were the ones who went and took a bus and train to the second smallest country of Monaco. I have dreamed about going to Monaco ever since watching a Samantha Brown travel show on the Travel Channel. I just imagined everyone who lived there would be rich and own yachts. And I did see a lot of yachts! My mom and I first went to a cafe in Monte Carlo right next to the famous casino. While we were there, we were keeping an eye out for famous people and also the rich residents of Monaco. There was an old woman, probably in her 80s, sitting at a small table by herself and she had a huge purple hat on her head. She was wearing fancy clothes and a lot of make-up and just watching the people walk by. My mom kept saying that she thinks that she was probably a famous person when she was younger and looked like a very mysterious and interesting character. Have you ever seen the movie Sunset Boulevard? She reminded her of the main character in that movie. After that, we went into the casino to gamble! It was my first time gambling. We walked into the building and were taken back by how gorgeous it was. I wish we could have explored the rest of the building, but we just went into the foyer and one other room. We decided to only bet 5 euros and we ended up leaving with more money than we came in with! (Well, we won 1 euro, but it was still so much fun because we did not loose any money!). I can’t wait to try gambling again. Next to the casino was the Hotel de Paris which was designed by the same architect as the casino. We walked through the revolving doors into a grand foyer with marble floors and huge columns with a detailed ceiling. I would have loved to stay in that hotel! We saw a menu for the restaurant in the Hotel, and there was caviar for 550 euros! I do not think I have seen anything that expensive on the menu. After we went to the hotel, we walked around the port and saw beautiful views of the water and the old town from the hill across from us. By the time we walked to the old town, we relized that we have been walking almost all day. We decided to go back to Vence at that time since our feet were pretty tired of walking. For dinner, we went to a cute restaurant in the heart of Vence and I enjoyed the best muscles I have ever tasted.