Archive for November, 2013

Cheshire

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Late last weekend, I found out there were extra tickets for the International Society’s trip to Chester, a small, traditional town south of Manchester. We’d been planning on visiting North Wales but couldn’t because of time so I thought it would be fun to see a traditional English town. It was indeed worlds different from Manchester. It was cold and wintry the day we went and the whole village was filled with Christmas lights and wooden booths selling mulled wine, wooden toys, and crafts of all kinds. If ever there were a scene that looked like a picture print by Currier and Ives, it’s Chester, England.

In the morning, we went on a walking tour of the town and saw the beautiful cathedral there, the ancient town walls, and the amphitheater where people gathered to watch executions. When we stopped by a point on the tour near a waterfall, a group of students asked if I would take their picture by it. While I was taking the photo, none of us realized that the rest of our tour had left without us. After we realized that we had definitely lost them, we headed back towards the center of the city. On our way there, we stopped to take pictures at an old bell tower where it was really crowded and I accidentally lost them too. So I headed back towards the Christmas market and had the best pulled pork sandwich that ever existed from a guy slow roasting it outside. Luckily, Chester is about the size of a thumbtack and everywhere I went, I ran into people from the society I knew. The cathedral was my favorite part of the visit, it was gorgeous and warm and inside there was a chorus singing christmas songs. In the afternoon, I sat in a coffee shop and watched shoppers and christmas street performers go by. It was really fun to see a traditional English town like that because it was so different from anywhere I’ve been here.

Nicaragua this past weekend!

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

I went to Nicaragua this past weekend with a group of friends. It was quite an experience to say the least. I saw some spectacular things, met some amazing people, and had a near death experience with some friends. We spent almost 30 hours traveling to and from Nicaragua. But let me tell you, it was worth it! We arrived in Granada Friday night and took 3 taxis to our hostel. They ripped us off and charged us $5 each for a ride that was only supposed to cost $5 total. We had no choice. We checked into our hostel and met some crazy Europeans who had been partying all day. The hostel kicked them out for disturbing the other guests. We tried hard not to let that be us. We went out to get some dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the town. It was delicious! We saw so many things going on that night out in town. Fire dancers, vendors, music, just everything. We were all exhausted from our trip so we headed back to the hostel and hung out and chatted until bed. We barely got any sleep when we were all awakened at 5 AM to go volcano boarding in the town called Leon. We headed to Leon, which was about 3 hours away and we met our tour guide. We took a truck to the volcano which was another 45 mins away. By the time we got to the volcano we noticed some rain clouds up ahead and our tour guide told us that we should hurry and try really hard to hike up the volcano fast in order to miss the rain. We began our journey up the volcano that would take us over an hour to hike. Half way up the Volcano we heard some thunder. Uh oh. Next we felt sprinkles. We kept hiking. We arrived at the top but still had a ways to go hiking the rim of the volcano to get to the other side. All of a sudden we felt the wind start to pick up. Some of the strongest wind I have ever felt. Then some hail decided to join us. The storm was approaching faster every second. Mind you, there was lightening and we were all holding metal boards! Not such a great idea. The wind was blowing us so hard that we could hardly walk. If we blew off onto one side of the rim, it was a scorching hot crater,and to the other side was the drop off the volcano. The path that we were walking on couldn’t have been wider than a couple feet. The tour guide decided that we needed stop and try and wait out the storm. We all knelt down and guarded our bodies with our boards. We were drenched and freezing cold. I was positive that we were going to die. I started to cry and everyone was worried but tried to stay positive.Luckily after about 25 mins the rain let up and we began walking again. We finally reached the other side of the volcano. At this point I just wanted to get down to safe ground. My friend Geena and I volunteered to go first. I clocked about 37 KPH for my time. Not bad! It was so much fun. The angle of the volcano was 41 degrees at one point. It was very steep! After all of us made it down and enjoyed the sunset behind us we boarded the truck again and were rewarded with beers and mojitos. We sure as hell deserved them!

As if our luck hadn’t been bad enough, on our way back, 2 of the truck tires blew out. Great. We spent another 30 minutes changing the tires in the dark. After we made it back to the hostel we got dressed and went out for drinks to celebrate our less than average day. The next morning we checked out and headed to the beach of San Juan del Sur. About 2.5 hours away. We got to relax and enjoy the beach. It was great.

Nicaragua has been my favorite country so far in Central America (well besides Belize of course! haha) and I hope to visit someday again. The streets, the people, everything was fantastic. Not as Americanized as Costa Rica. The culture was rich. I practiced my Spanish with some locals when I was there. I remember when I first arrived in Costa Rica and asked if I spoke Spanish I would say ” Un poquito (a little bit) ” and now I say “yes, I do speak Spanish.” My Spanish has improved significantly and I can hold conversations now.

This past weekend was incredible and after nearly dying I am so much more appreciative of life and of this entire experience in general. Life is short, and we have to enjoy it and not take it for granted. We have to live each day like it will our last one on this earth (as cliche as that sounds).

4 more weeks and my time abroad will come to an end. Unbelievable. I have to make it count. Let us see what Costa Rica has in store for me this week!

Oh and Happy Thanksgiving to you all back home :)

~Pura Vida


A Weekend in Roma

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Last weekend I went on my second personal excursion to Rome, Italy!  Three friends of mine and I hopped on a plane Friday afternoon and arrived there Friday evening. – just in time for an amazing pizza dinner! (Seriously, I don’t know if it was because I was absolutely starving by the time we arrived in Rome or because it was Italian pizza…but either way it was superior to any other pizza I have ever tasted!)  After the dinner we were free to wander around Rome for the first time!!  We hit the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (where of course I made a good wish), the Pantheon, and more!

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The Trevi Fountain!

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The gang at the Trevi Fountain!

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Making my wish!

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The Pantheon.

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Saturday was our one full day in Rome, so we woke up early to go to Vatican City.  As it is technically its own country, we spent the entire morning there!  We took a tour of the palace and museum, and ended the visit with a view of the Sistine Chapel.  (Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures of the Chapel…so you’ll have to take my word for it!)  The Vatican was so impressive.  I loved standing at the outside of the Sistine Chapel, looking out onto St. Peter’s Square the best.

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The Vatican Palace

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Classic Roman busts in the Vatican Museum.

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St. Peter’s Square!!

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After the Vatican we took a small hike in the outskirts of the “toursity” part of Rome to see a beautiful view of the city.  This walk was so nice – the weather was perfect, the trees’ foliage was a beautiful mix of green, orange, and red, and the air was fresh – my favorite kind of day!  And I suppose that the panoramic view of Rome was not bad either!  After a yummy pasta meal (which still was sub-par compared to the pizza from the previous night) we headed to the Colosseum.  And it was about at this point in the trip where we hit a snag – we arrived at the Colosseum gates to have them literally closed in our faces.  Apparently, 4:30 in the afternoon is when the Colosseum closes, guys!  I was heartbroken because we were supposed to be leaving for the airport to go back to Bilbao the very next morning!  My only thought was: “There is no way in hell that I have come all the way to Rome to see everything except the Colosseum!!”  So we resolved to get up at 6:30 the next day to ensure we were the very first people allowed in on Sunday morning and so that we would still catch our flight back home…and all ended well!  We got to enter the Colosseum and the Forum and wander it as much as we could on Sunday morning.

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We have arrived!!

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View looking down into the Colosseum

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Ruins of part of the Forum.

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Yes, this is real. Hello, Colosseum!

What I loved most about Rome was how ancient the city is.  I kept on reading these placards at historical sites that said years like “200 AD,” and I swear, I had to read them all twice every time!  My mind had a hard time wrapping around how old Rome was – which I think is saying something!  It was so cool to be able to walk where the Ancient Romans did, and see where they had the brilliant ideas that helped form the society that I am a part of today in 2013.  I feel humbled by my trip to Rome, to put it simply!  Traveling like this and learning about people from different times and places really forces you to take a step back and see more than just yourself and your life – it puts you in “your place,” which I think we all need once and awhile.

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Sunset at the Colosseum.

My weekend in Puntarenas with my host family! Sunsets and fishies.

Sunday, November 17th, 2013
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My African Excursion

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Hi all!  I’d like to share the first of my more “independent” (without the University of Deusto) excursions with you guys today.  Last weekend I went to Morocco!  I went with two friends from Deusto, but we traveled with a program for study abroad students called “Discover Excursions,” stationed in Sevilla, Spain.  Students from all over Spain were a part of the group, so it was cool to meet other students from America who were also studying in Spain – but that was only the beginning of the “cool” things that last weekend brought.

My friends from Bilbao and I arrived in Sevilla on Friday morning after riding alllllll night in a bus.  Although the ride was long, it was very nice to have almost the entire day to explore Sevilla before our departure for Morocco on Friday evening.  We got to see to main bull ring of Spain, the largest church in the world, and a multicultural fair that was serving delicious food from pretty much every country in the world!

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Statue outside the bull ring.

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Sevilla Bull Ring

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Sevilla Cathetral – Largest land area in the world

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Multicultural Fair in Sevilla!

 

After spending some time exploring Sevilla, we met up with the Discover Excursions group to head to Morocco!  We took a bus from Sevilla to a ferry on the southern-most tip of Spain, then the ferry to Tangier, Morocco, and then a bus to our hotel!  Phew!  It certainly was a lot of traveling all in a day’s time but it was so worth it.  Saturday morning we woke up early and headed to Chefchaouen, a small town about 1.5 hours away from our hotel.  This little city was beautiful.  The buildings were all small and perfectly white, while just the bottoms of every wall were painted a beautiful blue.  Now, I’ve never been to Greece before (it is on my bucket list), but Chefchaouen looked to me how I’ve always pictured an adorable little Greek island to look.  We were guided around the town by sweet old man named Mustafa – he showed us all the sights to see in town, as well as told us about its history and people.  I was fascinated by its people – they all seemed so “worldly” to me!  Mustafa, for example, told me that he is able to speak seven languages, and most of the other people in town could speak at least – if not more than – two languages.  Here I am, just trying to become fluent in one language other than my own, and these people converse in multiple languages daily!  I admire that.  Anyway, during our time in Chefchauen we all had a fun time haggling with vendors and shopkeepers, trying new types of foods, and just exploring this place that literally felt like a different world!

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Mustafa guiding us through Chefchaouen.

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A typical entryway into a house in Chefchaouen. Isn’t it beautiful?

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One of the many vendor stations!

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I liked this doorway.

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We ate lunch at a rooftop restaurant in Chefchaouen – this was our view!

The next day we went to Tangier.  There was a beautiful vista near the ocean on top of a very small mountain where we stopped to have a look.  There I haggled for some jewelry with a local vendor (which went very well, I must say)!  Then we went to the “Caves of Hercules”, which was pretty much one huge underground cave that looked out onto the ocean.  It was pretty cool to explore – and there were even vendors there, in the nooks and crannies of the cave!!  I definitely got the impression over the course of the weekend that Morocco’s local economies thrive off of tourism.  After the caves we got to take a short camel ride on the beaches of Tangier!  Those animals were so big – I was a little intimidated to hop on the thing, to be completely honest – but it was very cool, even a bit relaxing!

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Tangier lighthouse.

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Outlook from Caves of Hercules.

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All aboard the camels!!

After the little camel ride we went to the neighboring town of Assilah.  This town was literally right on the beach – so in my opinion that right there makes it perfectly picturesque.  All through the little city there was also wall art of all different types – not graffiti, but beautiful paintings with every color all over the white walls.  We spent hours wandering the town – admiring the art and talking with locals!

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Looking left from una vista!

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Aaaand looking right!

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Artwork outside a school in Assilah.

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Wall art contest winner – the white writings are phrases from the Quran.

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One of the randomly beautiful artworks.

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Africa!

On Sunday night we made the long journey back to Sevilla.  My friends and I slept in the Sevilla airport Sunday night into Monday morning, when we caught a plane back to Bilbao…just in time for classes that day!  It was exhausting but it was sooo worth it because our weekend in Morocco was amazing.  The places I visited are unlike any I have ever been to before, which I think was my favorite part.  It’s boring and close-minded to visit the same kind of places over and over again!  But Morocco is so different from the United States, from Spain, from France, from Italy, from Guatemala, from Puerto Rico – all the places I have spent time in before.  I love being able to travel like this to destinations that my mind is not able to form expectations for because I go in with a completely open mind and just soak in everything I can – which I think is one of the best ways to live and learn.  I feel very blessed!

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My favorite photo from my Moroccan adventures!

Week 8 – Still Here

Monday, November 11th, 2013

In the two weeks since our trip to London, I’ve done more school work than I did the entire first half of the semester. But I’ve also done a lot of fun things like going to Blackpool and experiencing Bonfire Night in Manchester. It’s already the Christmas season here in the UK and has been since November first as there is no Thanksgiving to celebrate. This weekend I was in Primark (a very popular department store here) and everything Christmas was out- the tinsel, the reindeer onsies, the music playing in the store, the hoards of people, even the Costa inside had men dressed as elves handing out fudge. It was a little disarming.

Last week my flatmates and I went out to Bonfire Night at the city park across the street from our complex. On November 5th, celebrations all over the UK commence in remembrance of Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt to blow up parliament with gunpowder. To celebrate, amazing firework displays and bonfires are held all over the country. There were seven or eight bonfires in Manchester alone. There was also a big carnival with rides and food and games. There were thousands and thousands of people there, it was bone-chillingly cold, and I lost my mittens but it was tons of fun.

The weekend before that, I went on the International Society’s trip to Blackpool, which is a large amusement park on a strip of coast called the Golden Mile. The name comes from the town’s tradition of lighting up the whole mile after dark each night with a huge light display of various TV and movie characters. Blackpool has a spectacular beach that goes way out and the day we were there it was impossibly windy but we ventured out onto it anyway. It was so windy, the foam from the water was being pulled off and tossed around like it was snowing. Besides the amusement park and the sheer magnitude of the beach, the rest of the area looked very much like Hampton Beach. The same tourist shops selling the same t-shirts and crap no one needs but is forced to buy to subdue their children who haven’t had naps that day. Beyond that is another huge mall exactly like the one in Manchester (and everywhere else). We also visited Madame Tussauds while we were there to see the wax Queen and various British football players we don’t know.

The last exciting thing I’ve done since my last post was visit the Manchester Museum. The big old building right on campus that I walk by every day is a museum and I didn’t know until our days ago when I was bored waiting for a class and ventured in. Turns out it’s an amazing museum with all kinds of animals, technology, artifacts, ands natural history. I really enjoyed walking around it and seeing what was there.

In my last five weeks here, I plan to see Sweeney Todd at the Royal Exchange, have Thanksgiving at the International Society, travel to the Lincoln Christmas Market, and write 5 lengthy essays as final exams.

Guy Fawkes Night Firewalks Chameleon in the Manchester Museum Blackpool

 

Ole Ole Ole!!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

futbol gameToday I went to my first Costa Rican futbol game ever! It was such an amazing experience. I have never seen a crowd so alive and excited. The game was La liga vs. Saprisa which are two local teams. La Liga won 3-0.

This was my first weekend staying in San Jose. It made me kind of sad that I barely knew the city I live in since I travel every weekend, so I decided to stay home. On Saturday I had the chance to sleep in for the first time since i’ve been here. After breakfast my roommate, Edith, and I joined my friend Geena at the Peace Park to go for a jog. We had lunch afterwards and then met up with some friends to watch a movie at the local theater. It was a fun day. Today we went to the game and then came home to relax. Next weekend we are going to the beach with our host family! Our tica mom is so excited to take us to the beach. It’s still so weird to me that I am going to the beach in November. I do not miss the cold back home at all. I also find it strange that the people here decorate for Christmas in early November instead of after thanksgiving like we do back home. I guess that is because they do not celebrate thanksgiving and therefore Christmas is the next big holiday. It doesn’t feel like the Holidays here that’s for sure!

I can not believe today marks the halfway point of my study abroad time. I have 6 weeks to see and do every thing I want to do here. That is not a lot of time at all. I miss people from home, but I haven’t been homesick since the first week. I can already tell I will miss the country and all of these people very much! I am having the time of my life, just like everyone said I would.

~Pura Vida


Uncommon Nonsense turned 1 today!

Thursday, November 7th, 2013


Uncommon Nonsense turned 1 today!

Uncommon Nonsense turned 1 today!

Thursday, November 7th, 2013


Uncommon Nonsense turned 1 today!