Archive for February, 2010

Recap of my first days in Townsville (1)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

At last my password has been reset and I can log into this blog again!

In my last blog I left of having already moved into my house here, but I guess I should explain how that all came about.

The day I left Christchurch I spent all day either on a plane or in the airport because I had to go from Christchurch to Auckland to Brisbane to Townsville, with fairly long layovers in Auckand and Brisbane. Finally, I got to Townsville around 9:30 at night, picked up my suitcase and got free transportation (provided by my school) to the hostel I was temporarily staying at until I could find permanent housing.

After about a twenty minute drive, we pulled up to my hostel which had no lights on. There was a sign on the door to call the caretakers, which we did and shortly a man came out with a key to my room which I would be sharing with another girl. She was also an intenational student, from Germany, who happened to be studying at JCU for five months like me.

The caretaker showed me where I would be staying and the first thing I when he opened the door was that this place was kind of like a dorm in set up, with a big kitchen, tables, and a living room area with the rooms off down a corridor. Sitting at one of the tables was a super blonde girl who was to be my roommate. She introduced her self as Marieke, which is pronounced like “Mar-ree-ka”.  But, since I never heard that name before and she didn’t say it slowly, it went completely over my head and I decided to avoid saying it as much as possible.

I unpacked a bit, it was so nice to have an air conditioned room because it was very humid and I was wearing jeans (good for the airplane, not good here) and then I went out to talk to Marieke. It turns out that while she is from Germany, she is actually studying in Holland, and her school and JCU have a partnership program which is why she is here. So not only is she fluent in German and English, but she’s also fluent in Dutch! Makes me wish I was fluent in Spanish!

We hit it off really well and decided that we should maybe try to find housing together, since we knew we would get along and “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t kind of thing.”

The next day we decided to walk to the nearby shopping mall, Stockland, to pick up some groceries for the next few days. The walk was about 15 minutes and it was one of the worst walks I’ve done in a while. It was disgustingly humid out, two seconds out of the door and already we were dripping with sweat as the sun intensely beat down even though it was only like 9 a.m. Finally, we got out of the sun and into the shopping center only to find/ remember that it was Sunday and Valentine’s Day as well, so none of the shops would be open until 11 am.

We ended up going to McDonalds right next to the shopping center and sitting there in the AC for two hours until Stockland opened. Once it opened, we found out where I could get the cheapest phone to use while in Australia, which turned out to be a $50 unlocked phone I could use anywhere in the world as long as I buy a sim card for whatever country I happen to be in.

After we got some more groceries, we walked back to our hostel before we later caught a bus to the first welcome sessions for international students. They gave us packets of information, like how to log on the different students sites JCU uses eand tips to adapting to life in Australia. Then Marieke and I went home to cook dinner.

Our plan for after dinner was to go to McDonalds and use the free wifi there to look at houses to rent, because we were going to have someone from JCU drive us around to look at places at 1pm the next day. However, we just decided it wasn’t worth the walk in the humidity and we could just wait to do it the next morning.

(Cont in part 2)

My Flatmates

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

As I said before, I live in a 12 person flat. You may think that sounds scary, but it is definitely not! I love it here! There are always people to hang out with. So my flatmates wanted me to write a “profile” about them. So here’s a few words about each flatmate…

Sam: He is 27 and  from Peterborough, England. He likes to cook, and he cooks really well! I always ask him what he is making for dinner so I can get some ideas of what I should make.

Alistair: He is from Lewis which is an Island in the north. He has a thicker accent than the rest of the flatmates, but I have no problem understanding him. His sister goes to St. Andrews (uni. 45 minutes from here) and she is going to show me around when I visit there for a day!

Liz: She is from right outside London and she is a English Literature major. Whenever I say “basil” she always thinks it is funny, because they say it differently here.

Harry: He is from Northhampton, England and he is very sarcastic. I never know when he is telling the truth, because I always assume he is just joking.

Steph: She is from Forres, Scotland which is very close to Inverness (in the north). She and the other girls are really helpful…one of the first days we all took a trip to the grocery store! And then about a week ago some of us went shopping!

Calum: He is from Alloa, Scotland which is like an hour away from Edinburgh. He just turned 18 and we celebrated his birthday by going out to lunch and having a birthday party that night. It was fun!

Josie: She is from Newcastle, England. I would say that she has the strongest accent out of anyone in this flat. I will admit that I did have trouble understanding some words she said. I can say “Harry Potter” in a Newcastle accent! You would just say “Potter” but do not pronounce the “T”s.

Finlay: He is from London. He played tennis before he came to uni and I think he still plays sometimes here. He loves the movie 500 days of summer. I hear him whistling or singing this one song from that movie all the time.

Sarah: She is from Ayre, Scotland and she lives in the room next to me.  Some people say that she only cooks 4 (I think) different meals for dinner. I do not think that is true, and I am very impressed by what she does cook! Most students back at home would just have microwave dinners, but almost everyone actually cooks meals here!

Peter: He is from Dunfermline, Scotland. He always calls it “Scumfermline.” So his real name is Peter, but everyone calls him by his nickname “Pedro.” I don’t know where that comes from…I don’t even think he knows where that nickname comes from. People just started calling him that a few years ago.

Molly: She is from Dunbar, Scotland which is really close to Edinburgh. We celebrated Burns’ Night together. That is where I had my first bite of Haggis and then we went to a ceilidh  (traditional Scottish dance). It was so much fun! Molly had such a great time that she said she wanted to join the Ceilidh society!

(Left to Right) Molly, Steph, Sam, Sarah, Josie, Harry, Calum, Me, Peter (Pedro)

From Pasta to Pancakes

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I went to the public library…again…and got cooking books! I got a book called “From Pasta to Pancakes: The Ultamate Student Cookbook.” This has easy recipies with few ingredients, so it is perfect for students. I have already made a few things like Basil, Garlic, Feta, Rocket and olive oil spaghetti. I also made fried rice! These recipes are good to understand how to do basic cooking skills, however they need more spice. I will have to invest in some pepper and basil…the essentials. I have rosemary and cinnamon! Ooh, today I made apple cinnamon pancakes for my flatmates because I wanted them to try the thick pancakes we have in the US. (They make crepes). Anyways, so I am enjoying cooking. It is different because I have had a meal plan for the last 2 1/2 years, but I have always enjoyed cooking. It is difficult because when I cook at home I have all of the supplies and all of the spices (like pepper and basil), but here I don’t. I have to buy almost everything for a recipe because I do not have much in the kitchen. Also, at home I am used to making big portions of food and having tons of leftovers. Here I have to make small portions so I do not take up a lot of room in the refrigerator with my leftovers!

Clay Plates and Folk Bands

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Folk Band in the Old City

Sunday, February 21
4:20pm

During Club Carnival at school a couple of weeks ago, I signed up to take a couple pottery classes. Yesterday was the first day, so Tina, Natalie, Eve and I took two city buses to the site of the American Farm School in Thessaloniki where the class was taking place. Unfortunately, we got really poor directions as to how to get to the school so a bunch of us wandered around on the side of the very busy road. Luckily, the teacher’s daughter came to find us and directed us to the school. There were around 15-20 of us there, ready to learn the craft of pottery.

The first task was to make a plate out of a flat slab of clay. I got to the wheel and smoothed the clay out on with with a sponge. So far so good. The next step was to trace the outskirts of the clay with your finger and to then use a small knife to cut along that new line. The directions were to “hold the knife like you would a pen.” I absolutely could not figure out how to do it. The teacher and her daughter came over to help me hold the knife the correct way. It was ridiculous and embarrassing but I eventually got it figured out! I guess my safety instincts got a hold of my hand. After the clay was cut, I used a small flat wooden board to curve the side up, making it look like an actual plate. Boy was I proud :)

After the plate was made, I had a lot of excess clay. The directions were to shape the excess clay into a solid ball and then to cut it and half and hollow the halves out. Once this was done, we were to stick the halves together, making a hollow ball. We were then supposed to make something out of this hollow ball. It took me forever to think of something to make, as I watched everyone else start immediately, instantaneously knowing what they wanted to make. I felt like the creative dolt of the group. I ended up deciding that I wanted to make a vase, but it looks like a flower glued onto a small pot. Whatever! No matter what it turns out to be, I had a great time working with clay. I’ve learned that Aunt Estelle is certainly a genius when it comes to clay!

Later on, I went out to a taverna for a small shared dinner with Mckenzie, Alex, Megan, and Natalie in the downtown area. The food was good and the waiter was really nice – and spoke excellent English! Woot! The great thing about a lot of these tavernas is that they come with free dessert at the end of the meal – some great and others not so great. This particular one gave us all vanilla ice cream in little sugar cones. So cute and so delish!

Once I got home, I went to find Aidan because I promised we’d go out that night to find a cafe or something. I found him in Carly’s room along with Teal and Molly who were all planning their spring break. After hearing about their plans, I asked about the last week and they said I could definitely join them. So, looks like I’ll be going to Amsterdam and Berlin for the end of spring break! I’m so, so excited. I have a friend living in Amsterdam and she said she’d love to show me around, so I’m really happy about all of this.

Aidan and I tried hard to get them to come with us, but they insisted that they had to finish planning everything. So, We grabbed Megan and headed up to the beautiful fortress area. We took a “short-cut” that ended up being really hard to climb because the slope was so steep, along with large dogs barking at us behind flimsy fences. As we neared the fortress walls, we found ruins in the park that we were going through. It looked really cool so we decided it would be fun to go through the doorway that led to a tunnel. That’s right. In the dark. We all held hands and moved slowly through the darkness, flashing our cell phone lights over the walls and screaming anytime we tripped over a dead branch – or what felt like a hand. We’re definitely going back during the day!

Aidan really wanted to go to this place we’d seen before that advertised itself as a piano bar, so we all went in expecting a cool atmosphere with someone actually playing a piano. Nope. There was electronica playing, everyone was over 50 years old and dressed very nicely (we were wearing jeans) and it was obvious that the host really had no patience for our attire and our American accents. He sent us to the crowded bar in an area that had no seats. The drinks were expensive so we decided to leave. We walked farther past the fortress’s walls and found a small taverna filled with regulars, nice servers, and an incredible folk band – two men playing the mandolin and a woman singing vocals. Most of the customers were singing along with the band as we walked in, and we knew this was the perfect place to go. We all shared psomi and tzatziki sauce along with red krasi and ouzo. It was so much fun! And relaxed. Couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Exploring the Fortress and Fundraising for Haiti

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Shadows

The Heavens

Friday, February 19
5:45pm

Yesterday, after Natalie got home from school, we decided to go to the fortress area to really check out the old city. We had been there before during orientation with the rest of the study abroad students but it was only for 10 minutes just for the view while it was drizzling out. We needed to see more!

The fortress area is right behind our apartment building and on a steep slope. You can see the fortress walls along with a beautiful church from my balcony, so its been a goal to see these things up close and personal for a while. To get to the fortress area, we curved around a bend near our building and walked along the road where cars and mopeds zoomed past us, racing to get to the top. We neared a hospital and veered left, seeing old homes in the distance. As we passed the hospital area, we entered into what seemed like a whole other world. There were colorful houses everywhere, a little playground for children to play in, women beating out their rugs and hanging their clothes to dry, and winding alleyways to travel through. It is exactly how you would picture any old European town.

As Natalie and I kept walking, we got more and more tired because the slope is so steep, but it was a goal of ours to at least reach the golden church – Aghios Pavlos – and move on through the other side of the fortress walls. When we finally got to the church, we were so proud of ourselves! We’d seen this church from our windows for such a long time that it almost felt like an illusion. But to be right next to it proved the church was tangible and that we somehow understood more about Thessaloniki and ourselves because of it. When we reached the fortress walls, we could see out to the rest of the city (a gorgeous site) and were able to finally go through to the other side. We found more churches, tavernas and bars and made a mental note to come back later.

To see pictures of the old city, go here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2038048&id=1332240186&l=0e81724733

After we got back from our adventure in the old city, a bunch of us started to get ready to go out to Dogs, a club in downtown Thessaloniki. ACT had organized a fundraising event for Haiti at Dogs during this particular night, so half of the profit that Dogs raised would go to relief efforts in Haiti. I expected to only stay for an hour or so because I had school the next day, but I ended up having such a good time dancing and talking to friends that I stayed over 4 hours! The walk home with Megan, Natalie, and Laura was probably the best part of the night because of our 3:00am pitstop for gyros and how silly we all were because it was so late. Good thing class doesn’t start until 11am :)

The fundraiser ended up raising over 4,000 euro… that’s around $5,500! Way to go ACT.

Back to Thessaloniki

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Wednesday, February 17
9:00pm

The rain mixed with the cold from this past weekend’s adventures proved to be too much for my body to handle. I slept in yesterday much longer than I had wanted to and stayed inside pretty much the whole day. My nose was stuffed up and my throat hurt a lot – the kind of hurt that you get when you know you’re getting sick. My temperature was higher than usual and I was simply in a “blah” mood the entire day. Sick is the last thing I want to be while I’m here! I’m here to explore my surroundings and simply experience everything that Greece has to offer – being sick is only slowing me down.

I talked with a bunch of people on skype and felt bad that they had the misfortune of seeing me look so gross (I made absolutely no attempt to beautify myself for anyone yesterday :-p). I spoke with my Dad and consequently got to speak with Yiayia because she was visiting my parents! I loved loved loved talking to her. I had wanted to speak with her for quite some time about my experiences here and that chat was just what I needed to lift my spirits yesterday. I also spoke with Grandma – a much needed and overdue conversation – and spoke with Uncle Jon (yay!) who has a new Skype account. Thank G-d for Skype… its free, easy to use and is able to connect me with the people I love in a way that a pay phone simply couldn’t.

After I spoke with family, I went out to a taverna a couple blocks away from the apartment with Niko and Natalie. It was a good thing for me to go out of the apartment and catch some fresh air, but I was glad to return. I felt pretty crappy and went to bed soon after.

This weekend

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

This past weekend, Kerry came to visit! We had a great time! 6 of her friends from Ireland came too and stayed at a hostel. We hiked Arthur’s Seat, went on a 3 hour walking tour, went on a ghost tour…and ate a deep fried mars bars! Here are some pictures…

We climbed Arthur's Seat!

Farmer's Market

Police Box with the Castle in Background

Calton's Hill

Beautiful Sunset

Stranded on an Island

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Walking in Prinos

Moving into the Sun! A Rarity.

Ferry benches contrast with the absolute Gray

Tuesday, February 16
10:20pm

Because yesterday was “Clean Monday (the equivalent of fat Tuesday for the Greek Orthodox)”, we didn’t have school. We all woke up early to catch the 8:30am ferry to the island of Thasos;  an island about an hour away from Kavala that’s well-known for its beauty. The morning was dark, dreary, and rainy and the Aegean was incredibly choppy. The ferry itself had barely anyone on it except us college travelers, so we were free to do what we wanted during the trip over. Even though it was cold and rainy out, I decided to go outside to the ferry’s deck and watch the scenery go by. For the first 20 minutes, it was so dark out that the pictures I took of Kavala in the distance looked like they were black and white. The darkness of the clouds and the sea were a massive contrast to the bright red benches that were situated on the deck (see above photo). As we got closer to the shore, it rained less and less and the heavens opened up, showing an exquisite blue sky with Thasos off in the distance in an array of sunlight. It was amazing to see this change happen so quickly and with such definitiveness that I just had to take pictures that document the progression!

When we got to Thasos, we looked around and first saw how beautiful it was with the open sea in front of us and palm trees all around. After admiring the island’s beauty, we asked the coast guard when the next ferry back to Kavala was leaving, and the response was “if the weather remains this bad, there won’t be one until tomorrow.” What?! All of our stuff was back at the hotel and was only being held onto until 3pm and we needed to be back at school the next day. The coast guard took our phone numbers and said he’d let us know what was going on with the ferries by noon.

At this time, it was 10am so to pass the time, we decided to explore the little town of Prinos. This (and the rest of Thasos) was a complete ghost-town because Thasos is generally an island for summer get-aways. Almost every store and restaurant in Prinos was closed. So with nothing to do, we decided to go for a walk. We walked along the side of a main road for about 45 minutes, passing mountain after mountain, olive tree after olive tree, and flocks of sheep… and to top it off, it was sunny out! Even though we got some honks and stares it was a nice walk.

We headed back to town and found out that indeed, the ferry would not be going back to Kavala that day. We knew that our best option was to go to a larger town in hopes of finding another ferry to the mainland. So, we took a bus to the larger town of Limenaria, ate some gyros, grabbed the next ferry leaving to the mainland (where we all fell asleep from exhaustion) and landed at Keramoti. We then took a bus from there to Chrisopoli, another bus to Kavala to pick up our things, and our last bus to Thessaloniki. We made friends with 3 hippies carrying stilts from a gig for carnaval were on all of our buses the whole way back to Thessaloniki. One of them had dreadlocks but you could tell that he didn’t have those dreads because they were stylish… its just what happens when one doesn’t shower for a while.

Even though it may seem like the poor planning that almost got us stranded on an island and the fact that we stopped constantly for various bus and ferry connections may have been aggravating, I absolutely loved it. Yesterday was a complete adventure that allowed me to see so many little towns that are integral to what Greece is really all about, and if it weren’t for our complete lack of judgement, I would not have been able to experience these little Grecian towns that all have different characters from one another.

To see pictures of my adventure at Thassos, click here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037739&id=1332240186&l=27617ebcfe

Mwahahahahaha

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I’ve got a plan. I went and talked to the receptionist who, very knowingly I might add, said “There are three ways you can go about this” and proceeded to give me three different numbers that all do the same thing: Get a security guy to tell my evil flatmate to turn that shit down. He also said that, if need be, the power can be cut. So here’s the plan: The minute things get loud after 11pm I’m calling reception and getting a security guy to turn that shit down. Especially this Thursday. I refuse to be sleep deprived before my final music radio class aka the show that’s worth 90% of my grade. While I don’t exactly feel better, I feel more empowered, which is fine by me. The funny/ironic thing is that I just had a conversation with said evil flatmate who seemed really surprised that I could hear his near deafening music in my room. I just nodded and said “Yeah, it’s pretty loud.” And then did an evil laugh in my room.
That’s it really. I went to All Saint’s on Margaret Street for their evensong service which was really, really lovely and made me almost cry two or three times. Linoleum works really well as medium on which to paint, in case you ever feel the need. As I may have mentioned a few thousand times my final assessment for music radio is on Friday, so there’s that as well. We (the group) had a meeting today where we bonded over animal cruelty. I’m going to miss those guys. Also, the play I’m seeing with my Mom has Harry Lloyd in it aka Baines from Human Nature and The Family of Blood which means not only does my sister get to be jealous of me, so do all my friends who like Doctor Who as much as I do. I’m also seeing The 39 Steps and Greg “I’m a giant” Davies. March is going to be awesome.
And once again, that’s it. Nothing else to be said. Don’t panic.

Weekend Stories…

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

With another trip to Puno planned, I was very cautious with everything I ate on Friday.  I did not want a repeat of my last attempt to travel to Puno.  You all remember my weekend in the hospital, well this time I wanted that weekend to spend exploring the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, not have nurses change out my IV fluid.  Lake Titicaca is the world’s largest highest navigable lake, with this title, I was expecting it to be out of this world and I was not let down.  Magnificent, massive, menacing and murky.  Magnificent because I was standing in Peru and could barely see Bolivia across the line of water, which if I didn’t see the mountains on the other side I would have thought that it could be the ocean.  Massive, we grumbled along in a boat for half an hour and did not even touch the surface of the smallest part of the lake.  Menacing because after my white water rafting near death I am not a fan of water, and murky because…the water was murky (and to keep the alliteration of Ms going).   That is the middle of the trip.  I will start on Friday night.

Belinda gave me dinner, “Vas a necesitar comida en su estomago por su viaje.”  I enjoyed the egg, bread, and rice.  I left my house at nine pm to meet my two friends.  They had not eaten so I had a coke while they ate chicken and french fries.  We went to another restaurant and had a beer.  Charlie you will be proud, I have found a beer that I like here.  Cusquena Negro is a dark ale, I guess, that is not overpowering and I can drink the better half of one.  That was the first mistake, to drink alcohol before boarding a bus for seven hours.  With the release of ADH from my posterior pituitary gland telling my kidneys to release all fluid and a bus bathroom with out a handle to open the door I had to keep faith that I would not pee my pants during the night.  I did not pee my pants, but I did not sleep very well in the lower “First-Class” deck of the bus.  With the smell of wet dog, around eighty degree temperatures, and the frequent stops to pick up stowaways the trip to Puno was miserable.  At five A.M., my first stop in Puno was the restroom.

A lady met us and took us to a hostel where we waited until eight thirty for our lake tour guide.  We explored Puno a little bit by looking for a place to eat breakfast.  A cheap enjoyable egg sandwich was found at a small French bakery.  Dragging our feet, we barely moved back through the wet streets of a foggy Puno to find our guide waiting for us.  We drove through Puno picking up other tourists, from Brazil, Chile, and Japan, and then went to the dock.  Tourist traps lined the boardwalk to our small boat with a Toyota gearshift and steering wheel.  Trolling along a guide explained about the islands, the lake, Puno, and other things in Spanish and English.  With white knuckles, I climbed to the top of the boat for better views of the lake.  I felt like I was back in Virginia with my Uncle Bob out on Lake Anna to fish.  Lake Anna does not even compare to the size of Titicaca but the smell, temperature, and weeds growing up past the water line all tugged on fond memories fishing with cousins.  On the horizon we could see small brown buildings growing, we were coming upon the floating islands of Uros.

Nothing like I have never seen before except maybe in a museum, I do not think I blinked during our visit.  The motor shut off and we drifted towards one of the islands.  Very carefully with the helping hand of a friendly Uro person.  I jumped from boat to island.  Sinking with some steps more than others I was ensure of my safety on this islands made completely of totora reeds and their thick underwater roots.  We sat down on a cylinder totora reeds covered with a thick blanket.  The short lesson taught me this.  The Uros people did not always live on the lake, fleeing from the Incas forced them onto the water.  In the very beginning, they put everything on their boats.  Building small houses and kitchens on boats, more than one family could live on a boat.  As time went on the boats, made from the totora weeds, would deteriorate so they kept adding layers on top of the old boat bases.  These grew larger and larger into the size of small islands.  Just stacking the weeds made for islands that had to be maintained all the time.  They then switched to the root layers anchored together and stacked the dry totora weeds on top of that.  Every eight months they have to add new layers of dried totora weeds.  The totora weed is used for their houses, boats, islands, and food.  It contains a lot of iodine that keeps their teeth in beautiful condition.  We were able to eat some as well; similar to celery there was a lot of water and almost no taste.

They now have solar panels that provide lights and radio.  There are elementary schools, small stores that provide very basic goods and very small restaurants (mainly for the tourists) on the islands now.  They still have to go to the main land to barter for goods not available on the islands.  Tourism is increasingly their main source of income.  They wore traditional clothing, but they invited us into their homes where I saw modern clothing hung up in the corner.  We took a short ride in one of their totora weed boots, which was very relaxing.  We left on our motorized boat.

Back in Puno we ate lunch.  I had my first ceviche.  Again, like the cuy, it was not bad however; I am not anxiously awaiting my next plate of it.  I would eat ceviche before I ate cuy again.  I have noticed that I enjoy spicy food more here.  Maybe finally I will be able to handle my dad’s homemade salsa.

We climbed up to a concord statue that looked for Puno and the lake.  The sign there read, “4,000 meters above sea level”.  It looked like if you could just jump a little higher you could touch the clouds.  Cody had brought wine.  A semi-seco, semi dry bottle from Peru, it was brown but I really enjoyed it.  After the bottle, we were all talking freely about our experience in Peru.  We all agreed that something like this really makes you appreciate your homeland.  I know I will definitely enjoy the USA more when I return.  That is not to say I am not happy here, quite the opposite now.  After just sitting, drinking wine and talking at 12,000 feet in the air looking over the lake for 4 hours we walked down to the city for dinner.  After dinner, we made our way to the bus station where we upgraded to first class with Tour Peru.  The trip back to Cusco was 100% better.  Massive leather seats, not sitting oven, no stowaways and less people made for a comfortable ride back.  I did notice last night (Sunday evening) that my iPod was stolen from my backpack on the way to Puno.  I now have to be stationary with my music until I return home, not the end of the world I know.

For a long time I was very homesick, I still think about home a lot but I am more comfortable with my life here than before.  I am not sure what has caused this change and I know that it is due to more than one factor.  I do know though, that having a more solid friend base has made me much happier.  There are not many people at the school now, maybe 20 students taking classes and 10 or 15 more volunteering in Cusco.  BUT the group of people at the school are all fantastic AND staying here either longer than me or leaving just before I do.  I no longer have to say goodbye to friends every week.  Creating bonds that are more substantial has really boosted my spirits.  Speaking of those awesome people, yesterday I went to my first proper futbol (that is soccer for all you USA citizens!) in South America! I think my first one ever, but I cannot remember if I went to one during my brother’s time as a goalie.  We bought little soccer ball horns outside the stadium and I wore a red Cusco jersey.  There was a big crowd, the road around the stadium had been shut down to traffic.  There were vendors of food and futbol things, hats, jerseys, balls, horns, etc.  I imagine all the people around became quite annoyed with us, we were a little band of cheap horns.  The girls from England were yelling all the proper commands that the Cusco team should have preformed.  I just yelled, “VAMOS,” a whole lot.  Cusco lost, I was told that they were a horrible team; even my untrained eye could come to the same conclusion.  I loved the soccer match though; I really want to go to one in Europe now.

Speaking of soccer I played in my first proper South American match as well!  One of the teachers invited me to play last Thursday.  I was hesitate at first, telling him that I had never played before.  He told me it did not matter; I decided why not, it would be fun.  I ended up telling more people and we had a little gringo army for the soccer match.  It was funny because we showed up thinking it would just be us, we were very wrong.  It was a gringo reunion.  It seemed like every person I have seen in Cusco who is not from Cusco was there.  There are three concrete courts.  We jumped on the court and I was prepared to make a fool of myself.  We also did not realize it was a tournament set up and we could not just jump in.  We were laughing that they just did not want us to play.  Thirty minutes later we were informed that we would not be able to play, more people had the courts after us and our time was up.  We really laughed at this because it reinforced that they really did not want us to play (it was not that way, but we had a really good laugh).  We moved to the half lit court and just kicked the ball around ourselves.  I thankfully did not fall once we really started playing and I was surprised that I was not completely horrible.  I made one goal!  It was difficult playing though; I was huffing the whole time.  I was tired for the whole of Friday.  I think I may just train up for the rest of the time here and return as the next David Beckham.