Archive for September, 2012

September 21, 2012

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Mannenberg is one of the largest colored townships in Cape Town and this is where I spent my Friday afternoon. I caught a bus at 1:45 with a student led organization called SHAWCO. SHAWCO is an organization that focuses on providing for the townships within and surrounding Cape Town. The two main focuses of SHAWCO are literacy and health. I have joined a literacy focused group called SHAWCO Star. Every Friday afternoon a group of us heads out to Mannenberg where we work with grades kindergarten through seventh grade. The literacy workshops take place in a primary school located in Mannenberg.

The volunteers are separated into grade levels. I was placed with the kindergarteners and first graders. There were around forty kids to the eight volunteers and to say it was chaotic would be a massive understatement. These kids crave attention and they are willing to do just about anything to get it. I spent the first hour with the kids coloring with them and helping them sound out words that I wrote on pieces of paper.

They had too much energy to sit still for much longer than an hour so we took them outside and we played all sorts of games. It is amazing how much creativity and imagination kids have. There is no playground or toys to play with at the school so they improvise with making games out of tossing stones and using juice boxes as a ball to throw around. It was a lot of fun! After some playing around we gave each of the kids a sandwich, pieces of fruit and a juice box and sent them home.

It was incredible to just give these kids the attention that they crave even if it wasn’t for a very long time. I cannot wait to go back next Friday and spend more time with these kids and try to be a positive role model in their lives. I already have one of the little girls calling me “mommy” and sticking to me like glue. It is going to be a great way to spend my Friday afternoons and I am counting down the days until next Friday. Hopefully I will make some lasting relationships with these kids and be able to make a small impact on their lives. 

Three Places, One Day!

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012
  1. Oxford
    Today we said our farewells to Univ in Oxford. While I won’t miss the passcodes attached to every door or sandwiches flooded with mayo or NO WIFI EVER, I will miss my single bedroom and the beautiful gardens. The following is a picture of Denhem Building, where I lived while in Oxford.

    We also had a wonderful and delicious farewell dinner the evening before to send us on our way which was a menu of potato, mushroom, and truffle soup, chicken and green beans with ragu, and a surprisingly lovely dessert of a caramel mousse with fruit. There was also plenty of wine and dessert coffee to keep me quite happy. Plus, we all got to put on our “smartest” (essentially, fanciest) outfits.
  2. Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire
     Though the day trip on our way home from Oxford meant we were all sleepy and ready to go home, we still had a great time touring this beautiful palace. The rooms were ornate — golden ceilings, thousands of portraits and statues, ten famous war tapestries, and a clear representation of what white people with too much money will do. The gardens and grounds were my favorite part.

  3. Bath
    Home sweet home! Coming home had most of us in the program realize just how much of a home Bath has become and how nice it has been to be back!

My Time in Europe is Coming to a Close (August 8)

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

My time in Europe like my time in Albania (I spent a little over two weeks in Albania) is coming to a quick end. Eight days until I return back home to America. I guess home is where my immediate family is. I would not have necessarily referred to America as my home but probably one of the most comfortable countries for me since I have grown up there. I was surprised how I felt at home in England during my work placement.  Even though I missed my family and friends, I did not feel it as harshly as I did in Germany. I guess family and friends make a home for you wherever you go. With my second parents in England, my close friends in Germany, and the welcoming volunteers, translators, and Vermosh residents in Albania. If you have a problem, the Albanians will find a solution for you in Vermosh. Before I “reflect” on my time in Albania, I just realized (or don’t remember) I did not cry when I left my friends behind in the various countries. The only time I cried was when my immediate family left Germany. Being in England showed me I could survive living in England, allowed my family to get to know me better, and I got to know them much better as well. With Germany, I learned (slowly) to survive in a country that does not have English as their native language (even though many know some English), to create a “home” for myself without knowing anyone in that country, meeting people who I hope I can stay in their lives but I have a sneaky suspicion that we will sadly never be as close as we were in Germany, and changing my current life plan, which will probably change again next month but I feel more hopeful about my post-grad life. Ok, now back to Vermosh. I was very skeptical about Albania since I did not receive much information about my volunteer stint. I luckily found a family at the airport who was in the same volunteer program (Balkans Peace Park Project…like on Facebook: as me, and we were luckily placed to sit next to one another on the plane . Skodra was boiling hot which I did not expect. Girls dressed to the nines with low shirts, short skirts, and heels. There were always groups of young males walking around Skodra as well. I felt there were more males than females there. I felt a lot better once we were in Vermosh and once I was in a routine again.

Students in Vermosh with the volunteers

We stayed in the locals’ guesthouses, which we paid for staying there as well as three meals a day. The lady of the house was in my class as well as her brother-in-law. I was supposed to teach children (ages 6-9) but there was only one who showed up on the first day, and eleven adults that the supervisors did not think would come so I volunteered myself to be a substitute for the first day until the coordinators could reorganize. However, after the first, rough day, I knew despite how poorly the class went I felt I bonded with the class, and I wanted to remain as their teacher. It is extraordinarily strange how quickly attached a teacher becomes with his or her class. I love how clever they are, love how surprised I am when a student understands the material, the girls who were always prepared, and the boys with their cheekiness. They all really wanted to learn, and it is so amazing to work with them. I guess I can no longer make fun of my friends who want to be teachers because those feelings can be very addicting and rewarding. I am going to miss teaching (although not preparing for the class), and my students.

My class

I hope they have happy, healthy lives and that our lives will hopefully cross again. I am surprised by some of the volunteers. Some of them I got along with who I did not think I would become friends with. I hope I will meet them soon and that it was a pleasure to have met them all. I am grateful for the interpreters despite our misunderstandings. I could not imagine lasting ten minutes in my class without my interpreter, and we worked very well together. Complete immersion would have probably been better for the students, but I have no formal training in teaching English so I am very grateful for the translator to be able to make sure everyone was on the same page.

All the volunteers

I am blessed to have to experience this amazing time in Europe, I hope I will see my friends again, and who knows what the future holds!

[youtube][/youtube] Thanks to Meghan for creating this beautiful slideshow and video of our time in Vermosh!

[youtube][/youtube] My class did a rendition of this classic for closing ceremonies!

[youtube][/youtube] An Albanian song that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Couchsurfing in Deutschland (May, June, July)

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

After my trip to Milan, I wanted to travel. Unfortunately, Erfurt is at least two hours away from major airports so I decided to see as much of Deutschland as I could. Luckily, I made a friend (yay friend!) who wanted to travel as well. We heard Dresden was a neat place to visit so we bought our train tickets.


Three days before we were supposed to go, we still could not find a hostel. We kept hearing back from many hostels that they were booked for the whole weekend. We had both heard about couchsurfing, but I did not think of couchsurfing as a serious option. However, my friend did make a profile and was looking for potential places we could stay for just a night. My friend fortunately has a good sense of character (even when just basing off of an online profile) and has this talent of finding people who would take care of us. She found two of the three places we ended up couchsurfing. Both of the hosts she found were able to spend more time with us than the one I chose but all our hosts were fantastic. They all met us at the train station and responded to our text messages. They all helped us find our way through the new city (we couchsurfed in Dresden, Hamburg, and Köln), and one even had his roommates give us a tour of the city. I believe the more time you spend with the host the better experience you will have. I loved having a “local” show us around and tell us more about the attractions. I think couchsurfing is a cheap way to travel, a great way to meet locals, and see the sights. For however long you are there, you become a part of your host’s life depending on how friendly and open they are. You can meet their friends and learn about their lives. Normally, my friend and I would either make them breakfast in the morning or buy them breakfast to say thank you. I would recommend people to do this if they are “safe” about it because there are sadly many crazy people in the world. I always traveled and couchsurfed with a friend. Two out of the three people we stayed with had very positive reviews, and I would send my relatives the host’s profile and address just in case anything would happen. I recommend couchsurfing but definitely try to be as safe as you can with it!

Music Festival in Köln

My Weekend in Milan May 11-13

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

As you might have been able to tell from my last blogpost, I was not entirely in love with Germany. I did not think I would be but after watching friend after friend  fall in love with the city they were studying in, I allowed myself to hope that I had found a country where I would like to live. After a rough month and a half, I was ready to travel again. I feel I will never get my fill of travelling! I went via train, bus, and Ryanair to Milano to see a fellow UMW student who was studying there at the time. I always find strange how quickly friends pickup from where they left off. Seeing them again automatically made me feel much calmer. We explored Milano that day by walking around on a tour that my friend gave us. We saw the Dom, park, castle, fashion center, and much more. I was astonished how persistent beggars were at selling their dying flowers or bracelets. 

The next day we went to Lake Como where George Gloony famously has a holiday home, and he visited there a week later (,,20603244,00.html ). I loved Lake Como with its lovely scenery. 

The food in Italy was amazing. I would gain serious weight if I stayed in Italy longer. The first night we went to a buffet full of pasta, pizza, bread, salad, and other delicious food. The next night we had pizza which was the best pizza I had so far during my time aboard experience. My first gelato in Italy! I was sad to leave my friends, but I was pleasantly surprised that I missed Erfurt. While I was in Milan, I kept preparing myself to say phrases auf Deutsch to the Italians and was actually doing well…if only I could do that in Deutschland! I was very glad to not be relied on to translate like my friend was, since she was the only one who knew how to speak Italian. Once I was back on the Straßenbahn in Erfurt, I realized I missed that place, and my friends who I have become used to seeing every day. I guess I might love Deutschland after all!



Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I knew when we arrived at Marrakesh due to the sea of clay colored buildings that seemed to go on for miles. The ISA group would be staying in Marrakesh for two nights until we head for Meknes which gave everyone enough time to explore Marrakesh. Now, Marrakesh is known in Morocco as a huge European tourist attraction, so therefore, it’s more liberal and more open to other ways of life than the more traditional city (like Meknes). Like any other western city, Marrakesh has an interesting night life; however, it’s not all sex, alcohol, and club, there is also the medina which gives any foreigner the perfect picture of the traditional Moroccan way of life.

During the first night the whole ISA group decided to explore the city and go to the Medina. You can tell when you’re getting close to the medina with the growing density of people and traffic and overall excitement of the atmosphere. The entrance to the medina is an open, brick courtyard with a wall to the left and a row of horse drawn carriages to the right. From the courtyard you could see lights, smoke, and a mass of people that seemed to move in unison. There were these bright, blue toys that were launched high into the night sky that gave the medina a carnival/farmers market on steroids type of vibe. There were an array of different noises and smells (some good, some not so good). There where live bands playing for those who passed by and numerous shops yelling at the tourists in French and English. My group walked towards a row of booths that have been around in the medina for many, many years. Once we got close enough for the individual booth keepers to make eye contact with us, they swarmed around us trying to convince us to eat at their booth. We eventually came to a booth were the keeper promised us free green tea (which we did get). For the most part, our meal was very nice, the food was excellent and it was interesting to see the medina in action while we ate. At points the chaos of the medina was a bit overwhelming with shopkeepers constantly trying to get us to go into their shops to buy something. The locals were constantly asking us where we were from and were very pleased to hear that we were American. Those that knew English attempted to use what English phrases they know like, “Obama number one” and “Fish and chips mate”. For me, if one wants to know the true pulse of a Moroccan community they need to go to the medina. The new city is nice and is unique in its own way, but I feel that the tradition and culture can be found in the medina.

The next day, the ISA group took a guided tour through the entire city of Marrakesh. We even visited the medina again, which had a much calmer atmosphere during the day but can still seem chaotic at times. After the tour some friends and I explored the medina and came across a snake charmer. Personally, I don’t mind snakes unless they’re the ones that kill you; however, the snakes that were displayed were two big rattlesnakes. There were some harmless garden snakes as well, which the snake charmer took one and put it around my neck, for” good luck” he said. I thought that experience was kind of cool and it made me think on how unpredictable things can get in a foreign country. Morocco was already having a profound effect on me and I was excited on what I will experience for the next three months in Meknes.

ASE in Oxford!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

On Saturday morning the ever faithful ASE charter coach (that’s what they call buses here, they also don’t have bathrooms on board!) came to pick us up for a lovely and sleepy drive to Oxford where we’ve been staying for the week.

Ways Oxford is different from Bath:

  • In addition to the ruthless drivers of the UK, there are a ton more vicious cyclists in Oxford!
  • I thought the people of Bath always dressed hip, but it’s NOTHING compared to the styles here.
  • It’s a lot more cluttered than Bath, buildings everywhere! and the architecture is much less uniform.

    Fun ASE Program Activities this week:

  • Saturday evening was the ASE “Disco” in the University pub. Apparently all the colleges of Oxford (there are 39 I believe) have their own Uni bars. Much fun was had by all.
  • On Sunday afternoon we all went PUNTING! which is a type of flat boating with a pole. It was great because three of my fellow students and I were punted along all afternoon by the lovely Cap’n Crunch who did all the work. Surprisingly, Gabe was also a natural punter! Who knew? Much hilarity ensued. It was a lovely afternoon hanging out with some ducks, beautiful scenery, followed by beer and burritos.
  • Today we toured Christ Church University which, although another ABC (another beautiful church/castle, a term I must credit to my Aunt Dawna) was really a lovely campus to walk around and the church was lovely.

  • Today for dinner ASE went to this Indian restaurant called Chutney that was the best curry ever.

There, that is a true story.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012


Blackout poetry is super cool, and I want to try it with my students. Before trying it with my students, I decided that I probably should take a stab at it first. The idea is that you take a passage from a book, or a newspaper, and create poetry by deleting words from something that’s already been written. I used a short story that we discussed in my club class – if anyone can guess what this is from, I’ll be pretty impressed. Anyway, this poem’s a travel warning.

In case you can’t read it (click on the link, it’ll take you to a bigger version on flickr), it goes like this:

“Once a prince wanted to travel. One evening lightning poured down knocking at the city gate and god! he ran. we’ll soon find on the bottom of the sea lying on something black and blue the prince cold and stolen. There, that is a true story.”

Em in Asia! 2012-09-17 03:06:26

Monday, September 17th, 2012


Breathe in, breathe out, compose your face, and carry on.

Half of teaching is patience. Maintaining a placid exterior, and letting students know that you’re upset without blasting them. Not taking it personally when they’re not meeting your standards of behavior. It’s biting your tongue twelve times a day, choking back what you want to say and rising above it.

It’s remembering that though you’re feeling like crap, and you walked to school in the middle of a typhoon to be there teaching them, they’re probably feeling worse. That though slogging through the streets-turned-river that runs through your town is horrible, at least you get to go home. That when you are done for the day you get to take your public face off, dust it off, and hang it up for tomorrow. You can stretch your real face and exist as your inner self, which is something that some of these students who live eight to a room, elbow to elbow with people who are friends, classmates, competitors and strangers all rolled into one, never get to fully do.

When it comes down to it, teaching is really all about pausing to inhale,  exhale, and find a way to continue.

The Three Best Pieces of Study Abroad Advice I’ve Gotten

Friday, September 14th, 2012

  1. Don’t eat/drink/party at the same place twice. There are always new places to explore!
  2. Say YES to every opportunity.
  3. Make as many mistakes as you can. This is a once in a lifetime experience.