Archive for June, 2011

A Final Farewell

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

For Kaela and her mothers last day in Sydney they wanted to do the beach cliff walk that starts at Bondi Beach. We woke up around 10 am and took the bus from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating with our beach walking plans, because just as we got off the bus the wind picked up and rain started to fall. We walked across the street to the beach anyway, but after less than 30 seconds we decided that this could wait. Earlier I had suggested that if we were going to be in Bondi we needed to check out this amazing little gelato cafe that Yaella had once taken me to that had the best pastries and cakes. We had initially planned on doing that after the beach walk, but the rain drove us inside the cafe early.

Even though Kaela and her mom are both on weight watchers I insisted that they have at least one sweet thing being that this was their last day in Sydney and the sweets at this cafe were too incredible to pass up. I ordered an apple apricot fruit slice and Kaela and her mom split a chocolate almond pastry roll with a dollop of ice cream, which is quite decadent by weight watchers standards. We chatted and enjoyed our sweet indulgences as we waited for the storm to pass. By the time we were done eating the clouds had parted and the sun had appeared, so we headed back out towards the beach.

Even though it was still a bit cloudy out, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking out every so often, so we began our walk. One of the first big sites on the path is the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club. This club started in 1929 by a group of dedicated local lifesavers who wanted to maintain physical fitness and swimming skills during the winter months, ( and had clearly never heard of the indoor pool). They formed the club and ever since have occupied a prime location on the edge of Bondi Beach where they have two outdoor lap pools, one being olympic sized, and a large club house that has a bar, poker machines, and several large meeting spaces. While it is certainly impressive that people would voluntarily swim outside in 50-60 degree weather, to call it the ‘iceberg’ club is a bit of a stretch I think. It rarely gets colder than 48 or so degrees in Sydney. Now if this outdoor swim club was in say, Boston, MA, then yes, by all means call yourself the iceberg club, or better yet, the hypothermia at risk club.

Bondi Icebergs Swim Club

Cliff walkway

I'm the little mermaid, obviously.

The last remaining apt 18 ladies

The water is such a marvelous shade of blue here

The walk took us from Bondi Beach to Tamarama beach where we caught a bus back to Bondi Junction. Once there we went up to the apartment gathered up their luggage and went back downstairs to catch a cab so they could make it to the car rental place and begin their drive up the coast. Once we had flagged down a cab we had quick hugs and goodbyes and off they went. And then there was one. Now I’m really all by myself.

Southern ladies in the southern hemisphere

I will be living in my swanky 18th floor serviced apartment until July 2nd when I will move to a hostel in Glebe to await the arrival of my mother who will join me for a few days before the rest of my family arrives. Now that I am completely on my own in the land of Oz I am finding that it shimmers a little less. While I do love this country and I have been so grateful to have had this experience, it just isn’t the same without my study abroad family, who are now all back in the states. The days I have left before my actual family arrives will be quiet and quite possibly lonely. What can I say? I miss my Glebe family. Australia is hardly the same without them.

These are my people

Ambassador Sichan Siv

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Last Friday, right before I got incredibly ill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Ambassador Sichan Siv, came to Payap University as a guest speaker and gave a talk on his life story (growing up under the Khymer Rouge, his entire nuclear family along with 15 members of his extended family being killed by the regime, escaping from a labor camp through the Cambodian Jungle, and living in asylum) all of which culminated into his appointment by George W. Bush as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N..

The lecture mostly centered around the Ambassador’s fairly new memoir, Golden Bones. It became apparent very early that the Ambassador wasn’t going to give away any of the emotional details of his story (“which you can find in the book” was a commonly used phrase) but we did get a basic framework. His story is very inspiring and champions the notion of the human spirit but what I enjoyed most from the talk was when he stepped back and commented on the role that his past now plays in his present.

“No matter what happens, never give up hope”. The Mother of Ambassador Siv often used this saying in times of hardship or darkness. His mother, along with many other members of his family, was killed under the Khymer. The Ambassador continually relied on these words to get him through life. Whether it was trekking toward Thailand for 3 days in the jungle with a severely injured leg or getting off the plane in America with less than two dollars to his name, in his mother’s honor he promised never to give up hope. The Ambassador’s story is at times heartbreaking, at times uplifting, and at times a little saturated with the “america saved my life” kind of stuff, but the comment that touched me the most was when he said “This is not my story, its the Human Story”.

That quote is a great soundbite for anyone trying to sell a memoir, and I’m sure someone in the marketing crew came up with it, but, in this situation it does hold weight. We are an extraordinary species and stories like this demonstrate our potential as individuals and our potential as a community, not only our potential for good but also our potential to promote pain and hate. The KR’s Cambodia, Than Shwe’s Myanmar, and Hitler’s Germany all demonstrate the human being’s potential for hatred, but, even more numerous, are the stories like Sichan Siv and Halima Bashir where strength, bravery, hope and compassion explain the power behind a human community based on respect for the individual and universal equality. I guess it just depends on each of us, as individuals, to choose where we want our own story to land on the spectrum of hatred and respect.

Meet Ambassador Siv was a sure highlight of my trip so far. He is an extraordinary individual and has done a lot for both Cambodia and the U.S.. I also got his business card and will definitely try to use his connections. On a personal note, I have gotten better but I’m still somewhat ill. Hopefully I will be 100% in the next few days. I’ll post again soon I promise!

– Bobby

Sports Day Photos

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Finally! Remember how I talked about Sports Day? Well I’m getting off my lazy bum and putting up pictures.

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Day 1: Kids in their jerseys stretching and getting ready on the field.

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They stretched to this really funny brass and wind song that had a man chanting on top of the music “1, 2, 3, 4…” All of the stretches were synchronized to the type of music, this lasted for about 5 minutes, and all of the teachers up on the bleachers with me were doing it too, because apparently this song is really old and everyone except the awkward foreign teacher knows it. Suffice to say I just watched.

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Sumin! One of the advanced 2nd grade students (2.1). Her English is really really good.

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Advanced 1st grade (1.5). Hehehe this has got to be my favorite picture of the day. There is just so much going on here

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some of the 3rd grade girls. I taught them last year but I don’t teach them this year :( . Ye Il (the girl with the short hair to the left of me) is the school captain, and is a total badass. She was in my pop-song group, and is an amazing dancer, artist, and is in the advanced 3rd grade class.

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2nd grade intermediate girls (2.2)! Maybe some of my gentle readers sent a letter to one of them?

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They made him carry the banner for his homeroom (1.5) all by himself. On the back of everyone’s jerseys is a nickname… they nicknamed this kid “Camel.”

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One of the boys in this picture is I Miss You So Much(e) Boy. Can you guess who?

The Food!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

So…here’s the lowdown on the food (aka il cibo):  it’s all amazing!  That being said, I’m a pizza/pasta kinda girl.  But even their paninis, which are really just sandwiches, are really good.  Here are the highlights:

Everything is a little different here...Italy does the natural sugar deal. But Fanta is by far the most different. It's not neon orange, and it's 12% orange juice. And delicious!

I believe this is called a cortolino. It's a chicken sandwich with lettuce on it, grilled panini style. The first time I've even seen chicken on a menu.

This was my first food in Italy: a pizza margarita. It was absolutely delicious, and possibly the best thing I've had this far.

This has been my favorite pasta dish so far: really thick noodles with a slightly spicy sauce. It was amazing.

Last, but certainly not least, is gelato. In America they make it seem like gelato is this really dense, thick, rich ice cream. Here, it's kind of just ice cream. But with huge flavor.

Shopping in Bondi

Monday, June 27th, 2011

WIth a whole week ahead of me and no scheduled activities I decided that I would spend each day wandering around various sections of Bondi and document my findings. My first stop was the Westfield Bondi Junction Shopping Center. This shopping center is a six level massive high end shopping center, and the architecture on the inside is stunning and modern. It is bigger than Tysons in Northern Virginia, but type of stores inside more closely resembles Tysons 2. It contains stores that sell things that are so expensive I shouldn’t even be allowed to look at them. Stores like Coach, Harvey Norman, and David Jones. They also have some stores for us little people, like Target, Coles and Woolworths (the two major grocery store chains in Australia).

The entrance to this complex is quite literally right across the street from my Bondi residence, so I decided I would spend a few hours perusing the mall and then finish up at the grocery store since I needed to purchase  a few things to put together dinner for that evening. So I began:

Australian's don't go "Beyond" apparently, they just go to the table.

I would think this store name would lend itself to some very "Who's On First" kind of situations. Like, where are you going? My house. O you're going home? No I'm going to my house. Right, your house. No, My house, to buy linens. You buy linens from your house? NO! I buy linens from My house! I would think it would just be confusing/frustratingly comical

This makes me ashamed to be American

Either this company is affiliated with Dunkin Donuts or somebody's copyright lawyer is slacking

Super swanky lounge/cafe near the movie theatre

More of the swanky cafe

Milking the Shrek cash cow for those last lingering lactate drops.

Another fancy cafe space, this one with a view

What parent wants to purchase clothing for their child from a store with "bratz" in the name?

Nifty lighting fixture in one of the food courts

If there is a Build a Bear here surely Chipotle can't be far behind, because this continent is in dire need of some cheap readily available Mexican food thats good, and nobody is in need of do it yourself stuffed animals that cost way more than regular stuffed animals that are pre-made. Also- quote from one of my favorite comedians, Bo Burnham: "I adopted a child from overseas to rescue it from child labor factories, and on his very first birthday we went to build a bear workshop...oops"

Something I miss terribly from home, my bathrobe. Sadly it was too bulky to have been reasonable to bring with me, but I have missed it. I have this wonderful Martha Stewart Robe that makes it feel like I am cuddling into plush cloud of magic and happiness. Martha Stewart isn't so great with insider trading, but the woman can make a bathrobe.

For shame America, FOR SHAME! As if the bump-it didn't plague the northern hemisphere enough but now it is being exported?! Tragic.

This girl is bilingual at age 3 and yet somehow can't find things when they are right behind her? I MEAN COME ON.

I bet most Australians don't even know where Montana is, or that it is even a US state, and in this instance most Montana residents are probably grateful.

Hot pants for your toddler! Because they need to be selling more than lemonade on those street corners!

Very direct advertising. It must be affective because I bought one. It was quite good.

After  a few hours of wandering around the mall I went to the Woolworths, did a little grocery shopping (tim tams were on sale, it had to be done) and then headed back to my 18th floor apartment.

Bondi residence for the week!

I felt like such a little housewife for the day, because I spent it shopping and then came home and had dinner ready by the time Kaela and her mom returned from the zoo. Then we all hung out, chatted and watched television until we drifted off to bed.

Em in Asia! 2011-06-27 01:01:29

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I went to Seoul this weekend for the F*bright final dinner. Since I’m staying in Korea, it wasn’t really a “final dinner” for me in the sense that it was for most people, but it was the final time the 2010 – 2011 F*bright class would all be together. Most likely I’m not going to see many of the non-extending F*brighters again before they go back, but we’ll have facebook, internet, etc. It sounds bad, but as wonderful as the other F*brighters are, I don’t see most of them very often (if at all), and thus I’m not too terribly sad. The only F*brighter that I see on a regular basis that’s leaving is Joelle, who I will horribly horribly miss, but I don’t have to say goodbye to just yet. Many of my close friends are staying, so I do have that support network. The ones that are leaving I’ll be able to stay in touch with because we have email, and we speak the same language. Maybe that’s why final dinner didn’t affect me as emotionally as these last few days at Sapgyo High School are.

The kids and the teachers are the ones I see everyday, and the ones that I’m absolutely heartbroken to leave. Even though we’ll still be in the same country, I’ll be relatively far away, and even if I visit Yesan, I probably won’t have time to interact with most of my students one-on-one, and though I’ll be giving out my email address, I don’t know how many of them will want to put in the effort to contact me in English. At lunch I had to explain to some of the teachers why exactly I was leaving. Apparently many of had assumed I was staying because I interact so well with the students, and were wondering why I was leaving. Also apparently some of the students don’t understand why I’m leaving them – it would make sense if I was going back to America, but I’m not. I chose to go to another school over staying with these students for another year, and essentially I’m abandoning them, and they don’t understand why. I thought I made it clear to my students that I’m moving because I want to take Korean language classes,  and that I’ll miss (most of) them terribly, but looks like I’ll have to keep stressing that it’s not them, it’s the location.  

I talked to a friend at the Final Dinner about blogs, and she mentioned that it was interesting to see what side of a person’s experience he or she chooses to express. In a blog you can never encapsulate your full experience, you always present it through some sort of lens, whether that’s teaching, traveling, or something else, and you portray a partial picture of your experience through what you choose to write about. No one has had an entirely negative or entirely positive experience, but it may seem like that through reading someone’s blog. I asked my friend what message she got from my blog, and she didn’t even have to think about it -

“You love your students. You love your students.”

Let no one ever doubt that. I hope they don’t think I’m abandoning them.

How the Other Half Lives

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

This week has been a week of transitions and finishing up. Kaela’s friend Shelby left on Thursday morning, the same day that I had my last exam of my Junior year and my Australian university experience. On Friday Kaela’s mom arrived, just as we were beginning to pack up our apartment. The weekend we spent packing, organizing, and cleaning to get ready for our big move. Our move out date was dependent upon which school you attended and when that school finished their exam period. I had till the 26th, Jill had till the 28th, and Kaela had until July 2nd. We were told that if someone in our room needed to stay past our move out date then we could stay as well.

Well apparently the housing coordinator for Study Australia goofed and it turned out that we all needed to be moved out by the 26th. For most people this was not a problem, since the group flight back to LAX left on the 26th, but Jill’s flight left on the 27th and Kaela and I were going to be here till the 2nd. Since we had been promised through the 2nd we were told we would be moved at noon on the 26th to Meriton Serviced Apartments in Bondi Junction for the remainder of our time. The Bondi Junction Apartments were a housing option on our program, and one that a majority of students chose. It was the most expensive option, being a high rise apartment building where you get a weekly cleaning service, you live atop the main bus/train terminal, you’re a short walk from Bondi Beach, and there is a gym and a pool in the building. That being said, it wasn’t a very practical option for anyone who attended the University of Sydney since it is a 50 minute bus ride from Bondi but only a 20 minute walk from Glebe. Plus it was $2,000 more than my apartment in Glebe was.

So after a long night of packing and cleaning we found ourselves sitting in our Glebe living room surrounded by our baggage waiting for a representative from Study Australia to come pick us up. One of our last cleaning chores was to take our bottle collection down to the recycling room. Being the classy college students that we are, every time we had finished a bottle of liquor or wine we had saved the bottle and put on top of the bureau in our living room.

Trophies of our conquered evenings. We also made it through five boxes of wine (in Australia they call it goon) but those didn't make it to the collection, plus we brought two bottles of wine and a bottle of gin with us to Bondi, you know, just in case.

At 12:30 we were still sitting around not having heard from anyone. We decided to make some phone calls, and we found out that our resident director was on a trip to Fiji and was out of reach, and even though he had told us that we would be moving out at noon on Sunday it didn’t seem like he had told anyone else. Of the three people we spoke with, two had no idea we were being moved and one thought we were being moved on Monday. Meanwhile, the landlord came around to do room inspections and bring in the cleaning people and we were still sitting there.

After a few phone calls and making use of Jill’s sassy attitude when necessary, we got things sorted out and they told us they would send someone to come get us around four. Between the four of us we had so much stuff it was comical. Each of us had two bags plus a backpack/purse, and then Kaela had a huge bag of dirty laundry and we had bagged up all our remaining food and loaded it into a borrowed grocery cart to wheel downstairs so we wouldn’t have to waste food or buy new groceries when we got to our new apartment for the week. It took the four of us at least five trips to get everything downstairs. The Maxi Taxi driver we had said it was the biggest load he had ever taken. We were packed tight in the taxi, with each one of having items that were sitting on our laps and squeezed in next to us. Once we got to the Bondi Apartments we had to take two separate elevators to reach our new residence. This was quite an ordeal since the elevators were not very patient in waiting for us to get all of our bags out and kept closing on us and beeping because we were taking so long. Additionally, people were waiting to use the elevators and we were causing such a fuss with all of our stuff that people looked almost afraid to get in the elevator with us. People must have thought we were moving in for  a month instead of a week. Around 6pm the remaining ladies of apartment 18 moved into apartment 4 on the 18th floor and spent a good ten minutes marveling at the extravagance of our new digs. We had two full bathrooms, complete with stand-up steam shower and jacuzzi style bathtub. We also had two televisions with a full cable package, three balconies, a full kitchen complete with appliances, and a washer/dryer. That is how you know you have arrived in the world of apartments, when you have your own washer/dryer.

Not wasting any time we busted out the wine and beer and then changed into bathing suits and went for a soak in the hottub downstairs. Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated we headed back upstairs to shower, change into pajamas, make dinner, and watch some television. After dinner Andy, one of the boys from Glebe arrived. He, like Jill was flying out on the 27th and needed a place to crash for one night, so we of course had offered up our couch. We all hung out chatting, laughing, and reminiscing until we gradually drifted off to bed.

The next morning Jill and Andy got up early to catch a cab to the airport and the rest of us got up to see them off. We walked them down to the curb, said our goodbyes, hugged everyone and sent them off. Kaela and her mom had plans to go to the Taronga zoo, and since I was going to go there with my family in a week I decided to spend the day on my own. So I fixed myself a bowl of cereal, grabbed my laptop and enjoyed a few quiet moments on the balcony overlooking the city.

Sunroom/eating area, where I will be spending most of my time this week.

View of Sydney from the 18th floor- harbor side

18th floor Sydney view- ocean side

So now the question remains- what to do with my last six free days in Sydney? I have no classes, no internship, and no schedule. Maybe I will walk to Bondi beach. Cook? Do a little shopping perhaps? I have Sydney at my disposal and 23 more days left in Australia. O the possibilities!

Two Weeks Left!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

I’m sitting here watching LOTR (the second one) and it’s definitely hard not to feel at home.  It seems insane that I’ve only been in Bath for 3 weeks. This semester has gone by so fast, and yet, there’s so much I still want to do! I’ve got my Bath bucket list of all the places and pubs that I want to go to before I leave.

This week was fun. Besides taking my first tumble on the Bath sidewalk in the rain wearing flip flops (Old Navy brand is not slip-resistant, fyi), I got to experience my first Bath bun.  After several days of attempting to buy some buns for takeaway, I slipped outside in the morning to buy a couple buns for breakfast. I was successful this time, and didn’t mind the journey in the rain to get them. They are so delicious, with currants and sugar on top and in the center, a sugar cube is baked in; a heavenly treat.  Another delicious experience was a dinner at a pub called The Hunstman; some of the UMW students went after class. I had a tasty traditional English dinner of sausage and mash (potatoes) and the local drink, the Snakebite (cider, black currant, and Foster’s). It was all yummy. Once again, proving that English food can be good. For once, I didn’t feel like a tourist too much.

On Thursday, our Jane Austen class went to the city of Bristol, for a few hours. We took the train, which was only 20 minutes long because it’s the next city over from Bath. Our tutor, Dr. Fallon walked us around the city and related it to our course by explaining that Bristol in Austen’s time was where all the merchants and tradesmen lived because of its proximity to water. Friday, our Oscar Wilde class and Dr. Foss and an ASE staff Emma went on our study trip to London. We first stopped at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we explored the free art exhibits and then went to view The Cult of Beauty exhibit, which was all about aestheticism. There Oscar Wilde and his buddy Whistler, as well as Rossetti, were mentioned and there were beautiful exhibits of paintings, portraits, furniture, clothes, and texts. Then Foss led us on a walking tour of Chelsea to show us houses of famous people (we pretty much went searching for plaques) like Wilde, Rossetti, Eliot, and even Dickens! Afterwards, we went on the Tube and went to our hostel in Canada Water. It was such a pretty town, surrounded by a canal and lots of ducks (some kinds I’d never seen before!). At the hostel we got changed and dressed up in our fancy clothes for the theatre. We went back on the Tube and walked to the Haymarket Theatre where we saw the production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It was an amazing play; the theatre was connected to Oscar Wilde because some of his eyes had been put on there.

Yesterday we went exploring around Westminster to see the Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace! We only had time to take pictures because of our packed schedule for the day. Our next stop was to go on a walking tour related to Oscar Wilde led by a man named Allan who dressed up as Wilde, wearing a white suit and a green carnation. He told us a lot about Wilde’s life and showed us the hotels he stayed at, the theatres where his plays were put on, the places where he bought his cigars and green carnations, etc.  Since we had been walking a lot since Thursday, we were all tired and ate our packed lunches outside the Natural History Museum. We had some time to look around inside, but not enough time to fully explore. I’d love to go back there some day and look into each exhibit. In general I would love to have more time in London to see everything! Around 3 we got back on our bus and headed back to Bath.  After arriving back at our house, we bought groceries, and all met up at my house to watch the extended version of The Fellowship of the Rings (hence why I’m watching the Two Towers today).

Today turned out to be beautiful. It’s weird to think of 80 degrees as hot! No rain predicted for today, so a bunch of friends and I went and got sandwiches and snacks, and headed to the park surrounding the Royal Crescent. It was a perfect day for the park (and everyone else thought the same thing) and we sunbathed, did some reading, and watched all the locals playing games. It was nice to be out of sweatshirts and waterproofs! Afterwards we had some ice cream. The great thing about living in a touristy area is that there’s a lot of ice cream shops!

Time to do some actual work,

Cheers!

A picture’s worth a thousand words….

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

So this post must be worth a lot.  Long story short, our apartment has wifi, but I hadn’t been able to connect to it on my computer, just my iPod touch.  Today, I gave it another shot, and it worked!  It’s a miracle.  So this means you guys get a glimpse of what I’ve been up to.

This is the first day in Orvieto, after a 10 hour plane ride and a 3 hour nap

This is the door to our apartment complex. We live on the first floor, in a really nice place

This is the Duomo in Orvieto. It's a huge church, and it has mosaics all over the front of it

Today was the festival of Corpos Dominus, which was celebrated most of the week, and concluded today with a huge parade with people dressed up in costume

Hope you enjoyed it!  More pictures to come, if the internet keeps working =]

June 26, departure day

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Today is the day! I am all packed and ready for my departure to Spain! I leave at 540 pm from Dulles International Airport and arrive at 7am in Madrid. Thankfully my friends and classmates will be on the flight with me. Kate Dubrowski will be sitting next to me, she is one of my good friends. It is so ironic because Katie, my sister, is in Italy right now and I think its funny we will both be in Europe! I’ve never traveled abroad so this is going to be a very new experience. I cannot wait!