Archive for February, 2011

Getting There is None of the fun. In fact it’s Quite an Ordeal

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A person who clearly never flew 14 hours non stop across the Pacific Ocean once said,  “Getting there is half the fun”

Well after the marathon of flight that has compromised the past two days of my existence I sincerely hope that getting there was in no way any portion of the fun of this trip.

Friday 9 am EST

After only having slept for 3 hours due to a marathon of packing and panicking I was awoken by my mother and my next door neighbor coming into my room. I tried to go back to sleep after this disruption but it was not to be. I ventured downstairs and crawled into bed with mom.

Fri 11:30 am EST

Binh came over. Bless him, for it took the two of us another hour to go through my luggage and pair it down to the bare essentials since I was only allowed to have 2 checked bags 50lbs each and one carry on.  And since I am so utterly female in my packing abilities this included far more shoes than I will wear, and easily a pound worth of dangly earrings. So like I said, essentials only. Bihn left all too soon and then(mom wanted to leave for the airport at noon so I guess this is a matter of opinion) it was time for the airport.

Fri 2:30 pm EST

The Lapointe family loads into the minivan and drives to Dulles. Dad makes crude comments and wild arm motions at every driver we pass. Mom scolds and attempts to drive from the passenger seat. Julie laughs hysterically and I snidely comment. So you know, the usual. We arrive at the airport, check in, and then my father, wanting a beer, steers us to the only restaurant in the airport and we all proceed to order way overpriced airport food.

Fri 5:15pm EST

Mom and Julie and I take one last bathroom break before I leave for the shuttle. Once all three of us are in the womens restroom we realize that we have left my father unattended (he must remain under close supervision at all times, ESPECIALLY in public places) . We then hurry out to find him playing hide and seek in the waiting lounge. He wasn’t very good at it though, we found him. I hug my family goodbye and turn to mom to ask her if she is going to cry now. As the tears well up in her eyes she tells me to shut up and pulls me in tight for a hug. Clearly I am my mothers daughter for as she pulls away tears began welling up in my eyes too. After all these years I have of making fun of my mom for crying at the drop of a hat I’ll be damned if she didn’t genetically gift me weak tear ducts.

Fri 5:20-6:20 pm EST

Got through security without incident, lines were very short. Move on to the terminal. I had a few minutes to kill but then it was time to board. I’m seated in the very back of the plane on the aisle.

Fri 6:30 pm EST

Flight leaves Dulles. In flight movie is a depressing but ultimately unmoving and uninspiring documentary about how awful the education system is in the United States. I watch it anyway. This is followed by some re-runs of 30 Rock, which of course makes everything better. Tina Fey is good at that.

Sat 12:30 am EST (9:30 pm Pacific time)

After a good amount of turbulence and a nice chat with the man sitting next to me the flight lands at LAX. LA, unlike VA is cold and rainy. By the time I get off the plane my layover has become more of a run over. I find the terminal I need and then wait for the shuttle alongside many other students that are Australia bound.

Sat 10:15 pm Pacific time (          1:15 am EST)

Shuttle arrives and everyone who gets on it is speaking in an Australian accent. This thrills me. We taxi across the vast expanse of runway blacktop that is LAX and every so often I see a sign that says “Stop for Aircraft” I don’t know why these signs are necessary. I don’t know what ballsy tram driver with an urgent death wish decided to get involved in a game of chicken with a commercial sized passenger jet thus giving the airport a reason to install the signs. This though concerns and perplexes me all the way to the terminal.

Sat 10:30 PT

We arrive at the terminal and are told to board IMMEDIATELY. I refuse to pass up my last opportunity for the next 15 hours to use a real bathroom so I do and then board the plane. The plane is almost completely full by the time I get on it. I have a middle seat this time. GREAT. To my left is a young quiet Australian man who has a lovely accent and says “cheers” instead of thank you. To my right is a very sleepy blonde female German college student. She has just gotten off a nonstop flight from Munich Germany to LAX. Suddenly my life isn’t looking so bad by comparison.  I’m not even on the plane 15 minutes and we are taking off.

Hours 1-3.5 of the flight

I watch The Social Network and Going the Distance.  At somepoint duing The Social Network dinner is served, which seems odd since it isn’t dinner time in the pacific time zone, eastern time zone, or in Australia. When I booked my ticket I asked for a vegetarian option but somehow that request was not properly relayed. I end up eating basically salad and bread followed by some hot tea.

Hours 3.5-6

I spend some time bopping around through random movies. I watched Megamind, which was underwhelming. I started to drift off during it and I think I may have actually fallen asleep for about 20 minutes but I cant be entirely sure. If I did sleep that was the only sleep I got I watched some of 127 hours, well, more like I skimmed through it. It was 20 minutes of plot and character development and then an hour of him sitting with his arm stuck behind a rock and then (spoiler alert!) him cutting off his arm which I knew was going to happen going in.. All the while I was trying VERY hard not to look at the virtual flight tracker that shows you how much time is left in the journey. Six hours feels like a long time until you realize you have 8 more to go, I didn’t need to know that.

Hours 6-8

I have not moved from my seat since we boarded. The german girl has been in and out of sleep and the good looking Australian guy has been fast asleep for the past four hours. I am very jealous of their sleepy time. I am unable to sleep without being fairly horizontal, and since it was a coach class ticket this was not an option. I lament on this for a while, foolishly attempt to sleep in a few different positions and then pull out my laptop and start drafting this blog entry. I watch “Eat, Pray, Love” but having little patience for it ended up fast-forwarding through most of it. I attempted to watch “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” but it was subtitled and since I am trying to read the book right now I decided against watching the whole 2 hour movie.

Hour 9

I finally break down and check the flight tracker, knowing full well it is only going to disappoint me. Sure enough, we have 5 hours and 28 minutes left in the flight. Why did I do that to myself?

Hour 10-12

Watched the documentary “Freakanomics” which was really interesting. I think I will have to pick that book up for my summer reading. Despite my wired tiredness it managed to keep my attention.

Hour 13

Breakfast is served. This feels odd to me since in Eastern Time its midday Saturday but in Australia its very early Sunday morning and “brekkie” time.

Hour 14-15.5

At this point I can’t help myself and I am checking the flight tracker at 20 minute intervals. I also mess around with the tail camera view, which allows you to see the scenery from a camera mounted on the rear of the plane. I start to watch “Morning Glory” but before I could finish it the captain announces that we are about to begin our dissent. Even though I could have kept watching I was so excited to get off the damn plane that I could NOT focus on the movie. I gather up my stuff, turn off and put away my laptop and put my seat belt on LONG before it is asked of us. I am so pumped to not be on a plane anymore. German girl loans me a pen to fill out my declaration form and we talk for the last 30 minutes or so. The Australian guy next to me opens the window for the last 15 minutes and I am mesmerized by the harbor views as we fly in over Botany Bay. It is stunning. So lush and green. I do not feel tired (even though I have now gone 48 hours on 3 hours of sleep) I am just excited to A) get off the plane, B) see a piece of ground for the first time in 15.5 hours, and C) be that much closer to a shower and clean clothes.

We land.

First order of business- find a real bathroom. I wash my face, brush my teeth and feel leagues better. The german girl waits for me to finish and we leave together. We walk together to the baggage claim. She finds her bags….but I don’t. I am really starting to panic until I notice a number of other students standing around looking longingly and hopefully at the empty baggage conveyer belt. Me and four other girls are in the same boat. One girl is from Maryland, two from NY and one from Pittsburg. Instantly we are bonded over frustration and a lack of clean clothes. We are all directed to a woman who sends us to baggage claim services. The woman there explains that our bags did not make it on our flight but made it on the next flight out of LA and would arrive in an hour and a half. We register our bags with her and provide contact information and are told that they will be dropped off at our hotel. Getting through customs is quick and easy. Once out, we are met with the directors for the Study Australia group holding signs saying “The Education Abroad Network.” We are of course the last ones to arrive since it took so long to deal with baggage services.

We are directed to join a huge group of students already waiting outside in the 90+ degree weather (YES) we are given a brief rundown of what is going to happen and then board a charter bus to go into the city and check into our hotels.

So to recap: I AM FINALLY HERE. And I am so excited to be. The energy here is so vibrant and yet incredibly laid back The weather is beautiful and the scenery is more so. Sorry for a lack of images and an intense amount of text. Promise to be more reader-friendly next post. If you made it this far in the post, congratulations, you have survived my long winded-ness. I promise I will find a way to reward you someday.

Elections campaigns

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Elections are coming up in April. There are campaign signs everywhere. The most visible campaign propaganda is the painted walls. Where ever one goes in Cuzco and even in the countryside, the sides of buildings are painted with the names and slogans of different candidates. Each party has its own vibrant colors so it is easy to identify were each candidate belongs.

"Always Forward" in Urubamba

From the Ollanta party. Seen on a building on a mountain road to Ccorca from Cuzco.

 

They also have different parades in the street. I have seen three so far. The one two days ago was for PPK, for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. There was a long line of vehicles with colorful balloons stuck to the sides and on top. They were in his vibrant colors of blue, pink, and yellow. There were also signs hanging of the vehicles and the back of one truck was packed with smiling and waving people. They were moving kind of slowly and backed up traffic. This back up of traffic is what I noticed first since I heard lots of cars honking next to me before I saw the parade.

The two times before this I didn’t see the campaign parade itself, but the preparation. On my way home from school one day the road I normally walk through was packed with people wearing bright yellow. They were standing in clumps talking. There were several vehicles there, covered in yellow balloons and flags. Later that evening as I was walking back from the gym with my host sister, the street was packed yet again, but with different colors and different people. There was a festive atmoshpere.

Quechua en el Mercado

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

After two weeks of Quechua, I still do not feel like I can say much. However, what I can say is enough to break the ice with people and make them smile.

Two days ago I spoke Quechua with a woman selling tourist items in a local market and we ended up talking for at least half an hour. Lots of foreigners who visit her barely know Spanish, let alone Quechua. We talked about Andean culture, festivals in Cuzco, my studies in Peru, and her study of English. She had learned Quechua from her grandmother, not her parents even though they knew it too.

It seems to me that Quechua is normally lost after the second generation.  My Peruvian mom knows Quechua, as well as her siblings since their parents spoke it and were from a pueblo. My host sisters barely know any. I think I know more than they do even though I’ve only had two weeks of instruction.

When people move to the city, they often try to distance themselves from their campesino/indigenous past. They want and need to learn Spanish in order to get a job and to be accepted into the city and a higher status.

 There was a man who came to her stand a bit later. He was a Peruvian that now works as a dance instructor in central Europe. When I asked him if he missed Peru, he waved his hand around the market, as if to say “What this?” The market was a bit run-down. The meat section is especially unappealing with raw, unrefrigerated meat lying in the open and blood staining the floor.

 Then he complained about politics and how he would not vote since he doesn’t really care about what happens in the country since he doesn’t live here anymore and that politicians are all the same anyways. As he was saying this, the woman I was talking with and her husband were just silent.

Finally, it became time for me to leave. The woman told me that she hoped I would return tomorrow and she would see me again. I will definitely return to that area some other time and drop by.

Fujimori, the Shining Path, and Keiko

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

During orientation, we watched the movie “En la Boca de Lobo” or “In the Mouth of the Wolf”. It is an excellent Peruvian movie. I’m going to give some spoilers.

 It followed one soldier who was stationed in a pueblo to fight against the Shining Path. The Shining Path was a terrorist group during the years of Fujimori. This movie showed how almost impossible for the army to figure out who was a terrorist and who was not. During the day, there were just campesinos (farmers), but during the night, members of the Shining Path would terrorize the army and pueblo.
Near the end of the movie, the soldiers disbanded a wedding party at night. The party resisted, and they were brought to the barracks for detention. Several of the men were tortured, but they did not reveal anything either because they knew nothing about the Shining Path or were trained to withstand torture. Most likely they were innocent. One was tortured to death. After his death and the rest of the detained party found out, they were very upset.
The soldiers then herded them out of the barracks and they marched to ravine. The campesinos, composed of men, women, and children of all ages were made to stand at the edge of the ravine. The soldiers stood opposite in a line. The captain ordered his men to shoot. The entire wedding party was massacred, their dead bodies tossed into the ravine. Then, to cover up the incident, explosives were set-up to explode part of the ravine so the bodies could be buried under rocks and earth.
The director of my program told us that the killing of innocent people in pueblos was a widespread occurrence in that era. A commission for truth was set up years later in Peru to investigate the role the army and government played. It determined that about half of the deaths of innocent people in pueblos were caused by the Shining Path. The army made up the other half. While the movie made it seem as though the massacre of campesinos resulted from the decisions of mentally and emotionally disturbed individuals, the widespread nature of these occurrences shows that there were probably orders from higher up.
It is for human rights abuses like this and other acts of corruption that Fujimori is in jail. However, he still holds the admiration and support of many Peruvians. My host father for one really admires Fujimori. Fujimori brought both economic prosperity and security to Peru. Before Fujimori, Peru was doing poorly. They lacked roads, schools were few and underfunded, electricity and telephone lines were almost non-existent, and the economy was very weak. Fujimori built up the infrastructure, strengthened the economy, and cut back inflation.

He also put an end to the Shining Path, which was terrorizing both the countryside and cities. People were afraid to travel to other cities or towns, since they might be killed by the Shining Path along the way. I went to Ccorca the other day (a district of Cuzco) and my host dad told me that during the age of the Shining Path, such a journey would not be possible. People would not go there since it could be a dangerous journey.
In the eyes of my host dad and other Peruvians, Fujimori was not corrupt. Instead, it was his advisor Montesino that was corrupt and made lots of illegal deals with businesstmen. Montesino is considered a traitor.
It was really interesting for me to talk to my host dad about Fujimori. After watching “En la Boca de Lobo” and hearing stories of corruption, I had a very negative view of Fujimori and could not understand how any Peruvian could like him. After talking to my host dad, things became more complex.

Now Keiko Fujimori, Fujimori’s daughter is running for president. She is asked if she will pardon and release her father from jail. Her current stance is that she would like too, but that she will let the people decide. If they decide that he should remain in jail, then she will have him live with her under house arrest.

Background

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

This semester, I am studying abroad in Peru with SIT. The program is titled Indigenous People and Globalization.
I am living in Cuzco with a Peruvian family of a mom, dad, two daughters, two dogs, one puppy, and one cat. The mom runs a café in the Plaza de Armas, the historic and tourist center of Cuzco while the dad is a policeman in the airport. Both of the daughters help out in the café, the oldest one also works at a bank while the youngest in still in university. They are all really nice and enjoy laughing.
In the mornings I have language class and in the afternoon we have lectures about different themes. Our lecturers are men and woman who are specialists in the day’s theme.
The first week we had orientation in the rural land outside of Urubamba, a small city close to Cuzco. The next few weeks were spent in Cuzco, where we live with host families and attend classes. The first two weeks of class we were taught the basics of Quechua, the indigenous language of the Andes, roots tracing back to the times of the Incas. Our exam was to go talk to a pueblo and ask Quechua-speaking families basic questions about their families and farms.
The upcoming two weeks, we will be traveling around Peru to various cities, pueblos, and rural areas. For about five of those days, we will each be living with an indigenous family in the Andes, helping them out with their daily tasks and practicing our Quechua.
After this, we will return to Cuzco and out families, learn Spanish is the morning instead of Quechua, and continue out lecture series. For our final month here, we will begin out independent study project on the topic of our choosing and the place we want. We will then reunite in Cuzco and present our findings.
My current theme to research is whether or not immigrants to the city from el campo (the countryside) vote in the interests of el campo and indigenous people, or in the interests of the city, their new environment and why. I still need to refine my topic much more, but that is my present interest.

London, London, London

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Let me just start off by saying that this trip is slightly jaded because I am a scatter brain and left my passport on the plane.  Because of that I had to miss a few hours of sight seeing and make a trip to the US Embassy to get a temporary passport and yada yada yada.  It was a wee bit stressful but I got it figured out, and if anyone loses their passport in the future I am ready to handle the situation.

Other than that, I LOVED London.  It is such a cool city.  My favorite part was probably the markets.  We went to the Portobello Market (the one from Notting Hill!) and the Borough Market.  The Portobello Market had everything, it must have been close to a mile long.  The beginning is clothes and crafts and things like that and then you get to the food.  Oh my gosh, it is painful to walk through that market and not buy everything you see.  The Borough Market is exclusively a food market, with samples might I add.  That was really cool too, a lot of us ended up getting fish and chips there which were really good.  I also got an eclair that didn’t quite measure up to the parisian eclair but still delicious.

We saw all of the main sights, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Platform 9 and 3/4 (which is a fake wall by the way, kind of disappointing).

Buckingham Palace:

Big Ben and Houses of Parliment:

Westminster Abbey:

View from London Bridge:

Portobello Market in Notting Hill!

Weekend in Switzerland

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I went to Zurich two weeks ago to hang out with good ole dad because he was there for business.  Turns out there isn’t too much to see in Zurich.  I got there Saturday afternoon, after we checked into the hotel we went into town to look for some grub.  Found a nice Italian place that had delicious pizza.  Who know Switzerland had such good pizza? Then we walked around Lake Zurich (as dad named it) for awhile.  We saw some interesting people and heard at least 4 different languages being spoken.  We also learned that chestnuts are a huge thing there, there were little chestnut stands everywhere.  The lake was really pretty, and gave a great view of the mountains.

Then on Sunday we wanted to go the Lindt chocolate factory and the zoo, but the chocolate factory was closed.  So we headed on down to the zoo.  We walked around the entire zoo, I haven’t been to a zoo in ages and I forgot how cool they are.  We saw all the usual animals plus lions and tigers and bears and elephants.  It also happened to be a beautiful day in Zurich.

Now for the most important part of the trip, great food!  We had pizza both days for lunch, which was superb both times.  And for dinner I had a burger one night and ribs the next night. So good.  And finally I got a full breakfast both mornings! There is nothing better than eggs, potatoes,  toast, and bacon to start off the day let me tell you.

And another important part of the trip, dad got me hooked on sons of anarchy.  I watched 10 episodes on his computer while were there (I watched them instead of sleeping), and told my roommate to download the seasons and now we are on season 3. Great show.

Off the Grid

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Don’t worry everyone (family + spambots), you haven’t been missing my blog updates, I just haven’t been writing them. It’s a combination of travel-filled vacation time, taking an intensive Korean course, and having either a sprained wrist or tendonitis (I’m not sure which). Also the things I find myself most wanting to write about are Korean culture or school, and up until just recently (with my Korean language courses) I haven’t been experiencing that as I’ve been traveling with American friends.

To give you a quick summary, I went to China for 20 days with my friends Felicia and Amy, then came back and taught a winter camp for a week. After that I went to Busan (the San Fransisco of Korea, an absolutely gorgeous south-western coastal city) for a little less than a week. After that I spent the weekend in Seoul, went back to Yesan for a few days, had a tea party with my friend Joelle in Hongseong, and then came back to Goesan for an intensive Korean language class named CLEA (Critical Language Enhancement Award) where I’ve had class for 6 days a week, 6 hours a day, and not really been sleeping. This language class ends in 8 days, and then I go back to Yesan for my 2nd semester teaching, which I’m excited about but also nervous.

China in a nutshell: Amazing, but really really cold. I went to Beijing, Shanghai, Luyoung, Kaifeng, Xi’an and Chengdu. In Beijing I saw the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Sun Temple as well as other things, in Shanghai I did some shopping and saw the Bund, in Luyoung I saw this amazing place called “Longmen Grotto” which is an area filled with miniature caves much like Cappadocia in Turkey, except the caves are cut into and there are 10,000 Buddha images of ranging sizes all over the
caves. In Chengdu we saw pandas! Xi’an we saw the terracotta warriors, and in Kaifeng there was a really amazing night market. Traveling in China was so different than traveling in Korea… Korea is so small that there isn’t a SINGLE night train with sleeper cars! China is so large that we only took night trains, or flew. Knowing the language while traveling makes a huge difference! It became very tiring to try to travel in China because we couldn’t speak, read or write, and we couldn’t even copy down things to show other people, because the script was so hard to duplicate. Basically, while I would highly recommend China for anyone to travel around, I would choose to live in South Korea over China in a heartbeat. Traveling really made me appreciate how much I’ve grown to love South Korea.

In the same vein, I did decide to apply to stay in South Korea for another year. I’m enjoying teaching but I’m also really invested in learning Korean language, and enjoying the culture. My biggest regret with Turkey is that I didn’t get involved enough with the culture and I didn’t stay for a full year… 6 months was just too short. F*bright is really an amazing opportunity, and I feel like a year’s too short of a time in Korea. I’m still dealing with some culture shock and I feel that it’d be a little bit of a letdown to finally adapt and then leave. I’m not sure if I’ll stay at my school or go somewhere else, but I’m excited for next year.

As this blog post was supposed to be a short study break and turned into a long one, I must go, but expect more entries the first week of March when I’m back at school.

화이팅! 사랑해요!

Palm Cove

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

My roomie Lauren and I went on our first beach trip today!  We decided to go to Palm Cove, the farthest beach on the bus route, because the closest beach apparently had some stray stingers inside the swimming nets yesterday. =X  The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  I am living in paradise.

Lauren and myself.

A super cute 'roo figurine thing.

Uhoh...

Paradise.

GIANT ANT!!!!

Twas The Night Before Studying Abroad…

Friday, February 18th, 2011

It’s 4:13 am as I begin writing this post, which is to be the first of many to come. I have just finished a three hour second attempt at packing for this trip. I am sure there will be all sorts of re-shuffling and re-allocating tomorrow once I get my luggage on a scale and find out that I packed about 80 pounds too much.

My mother, well intentioned as she is, purchased me a duffel style bag that is properly sized for stashing bodies in for my trip, and in my late night fervor I have filled it completely. On top of another very large piece of luggage. Tragically airlines care not for the size of your checked luggage but rather for the weight. For this journey I am allowed 2 checked items, each weighing 50 lbs and one carry on.

I would put so much money on the fact that I am easily 40 pounds over that limit currently. Damn my female propensity to over pack. Damn it to hell.

It has been an odd thing all week to know this day was coming. Ever since I got out of school in early Dec I have been waiting for this trip. Talking about it, planning, packing, and waiting for it. All the days I spent sitting in my house rising at the crack of 3pm and splitting my time between the internet and the television I longed for the start of my south pacific adventure. When the snow began falling I day dreamed about a southern hemisphere summer filled with flip flops and bathing suits. And now, I find myself on the eve of this dream, which is about to come true and I am feeling a myriad of emotions.

Fear

Optimism

Anxiousness

Excitement!

and

Determination

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions all week, but today has been especially loopy. My flight leaves tomorrow at 6:15 pm from Dulles and I should be flying into LA around 9pm their time. Then its the long haul across the pacific ocean till 8am sunday sydney time. I think getting there, which is theoretically half the fun, might not be any fun this particular time.

Well its now 4:44 am and even though I am still fairly wired I think I am going to attempt sleep. For tomorrow (later today) is sure to be a flurry of packing, re packing, tears (from my mother) goodbyes, and last minute errands. Hopefully the flights go off without a hitch, heres to hoping. By the time I post next I will be the farthest away from home I could possibly ever get without going to Antarctica or the moon. That is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

It’s 8:42 pm in Sydney right now. So the way I look at it, I’m going to bed early.