Getting Settled in India

Standard

Wow. So much has happened in the past week, and between three days of travel and five days of adjusting to a different culture and time zone, I’ve had basically no time to process my experience in writing. It feels like I left Philadelphia a month ago. First of all, I couldn’t have been luckier in terms of the group of people that have decided to embark on this journey with me. There are eight of us undergrad students, one grad student, and one alum. Our teacher, Dr. Jhala who we call Bapa (which means father) is a prince, though since India declared its independence in 1947 the Jhala clan no longer holds political power. Nevertheless, the family is still held in extremely high regard, and maintains this palace compound where we stay called Ajitnivas.

IMG_4945

Ajitnivas (Photography by Sam Romero)

Getting to India was quite an adventure in itself. Four of us decided to arrange our flights to have a fifteen-hour layover in London. The flight to London was about seven hours, and from London to New Delhi was another seven hours. From New Delhi we took a one-and-a-half hour flight to Ahmedabad, which is a three-hour drive from our destination, Dhrangadhra. Most of us are still adjusting to the time difference, a week later. It wasn’t until yesterday that I could sleep for more than an hour without waking up.

We certainly learned the importance of keeping track of our things while exhausted in London. We had a great day walking around the city, drinking ales at a pub, and taking a short boat tour to see famous landmarks. On the way back, Shaniece left her phone on the Underground (the subway). As the doors closed, a man held up the phone and waved to her. The people in the car all pointed to a button, which Shaniece tried in vain to press only to the effect of giving her a slight shock. In a moment of desperation, she rushed past the gate blocking the entrance from the station platform to the tunnel, which caused all the trains on the line to stop! It was a crazy situation, but fortunately the Underground employees and other people at the station were extremely kind to us. After giving her several lectures about how she could have died rushing past that gate, to our amazement, they were able to get her phone back. We chuckled imagining how SEPTA employees would have handled this situation. As we got off the train to the airport, I realized my wallet was not in my purse. As I frantically searched for it, a security guard walked by carrying Sam’s wallet. Apparently she had dropped it exiting the train. Soon, she realized she had my wallet in her bag, which I must have dropped earlier and she had been keeping safe. We were extremely relieved to know that somehow we had managed to hold on to all our most valuable and necessary possessions. Of course, when we got to New Delhi our checked luggage was nowhere to be found. Fortunately, it was merely delayed and we were able to get it back several days later. Lesson number one: travel is unpredictable and it is easy to get disoriented and lose things.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 6.59.29 PM.png

London

Dhrangadhra is very hot at this time of year, about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is dry, though, which makes it much easier to handle the heat. In addition, most people do not go out between the hours of 10:00 am and 5:00 pm, so it is perfectly acceptable to take naps. It is both wonderful and a bit unnerving to be living in a palace. While we are told the people who work here consider it a good opportunity, it is strange to have people essentially waiting on us. Because most of them do not speak English, it is difficult to communicate with them other than to say abhar, which means thank you in Gujarati. Nevertheless, most of them are very warm towards us, and we communicate through gesture, and more than anything, simply through smiling at each other. Shaniece brought nail polish, and yesterday she, Camilla, and some of the women have had some very nice exchanges painting nails and doing henna together.

IMG_5101.JPG

Camilla (L) with Barati (R) (Photography by Sam Romero)

In addition, a woman named Jayshree speaks English and is almost always with us, helping us to navigate these places. Jayshree works as a social worker at an NGO with women and children. She is extremely warm and makes us all feel loved and safe. As Camilla remarked, she feels like a combination of a mother, a sister, and a wife. She makes her own clothes (which are all gorgeous and expertly tailored), and she teaches women to sew at the NGO. We all feel very lucky to have her with us.

18675228_10210655050787083_1683853179_o.jpg

Jayshree (L) dancing with Chrissy (R) (Photography by Liliana Jacobson-Peregrino)

Because most of our names may be hard for Indian people to remember, we were given Indian names. My name is Anande, which means “joyful one.” We like to wander the beautiful palace and its grounds at night, most of which is not in use and in varying degrees of ornateness and disrepair. We are not to flush toilet paper, and we are warned the water is not safe to drink or brush teeth with. Only certain areas of the palace have wifi, and most of us do not use data on our phones as we have discovered data is extremely expensive and quick to be used up. Apparently, however, this wifi is a recent development along with the air conditioning in the bedrooms.

So far, we have been busy visiting temples and sacred sites, buying clothes in the city, hearing music, going to weddings, etc. We are served four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. I was surprised how easy it was to adjust to eating Indian food every day; I love Indian food, but as an American I’m used to being able to enjoy a variety of cuisines day to day. But the food is delicious, and I always look forward to the next meal. It is also very fun to wear the clothes here. Though us women must cover our legs, shoulders, and chest, the fabric is light, loose, comfortable, and beautiful. It is amazing to walk down the streets of Dhrangadhra and see so many beautiful women adorned with lots of jewelry with long pretty hair. I don’t think I’ve seen an outfit I would consider “ugly.” Though dress codes for women can be restrictive, at least the options are flattering.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 6.55.48 PM.png

Women praying at Ranmal Temple in Dhrangadhra

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 6.56.00 PM.png

Wedding in Jesada

Navigating the streets of Dhrangadhra is not like anything I’ve experienced before. First of all, there are no road rules. While sometimes this doesn’t seem to make a difference in terms of safety, other times certain drivers scare the crap out of us. In general, though, I’ve noticed people here don’t seem to get road rage. The lack of rules has an effect of making the people who drive on these roads much more aware of everything that is going on, rather than relying on rules and boundaries to ensure safety. People drive wherever they can, and there seem to be more motorcycles and rickshaws than cars. Bulls, dogs, goats, and boars roam freely, eating the colorful trash adorning the brown roads.

https://youtu.be/oUH2RGQqP1A

Because animals are considered to be manifestations of Hindu deities, they are respected here. They are left to roam free and are not generally kept as pets except for in situations where they are utilized for a purpose. I treat my cat like he’s my son, so it feels strange to me to see all these dogs walking around and people paying them no attention. My first night here I tried to call to one of the dogs, and he seemed extremely confused. It wasn’t until I called him multiple times that he even realized I was talking to him, and when he figured it out he seemed very confused that a human was trying to interact in that way with him.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 6.56.22 PM.png

Dog enjoying milk libations at stepwell in Kolkavati

Because this experience is delightful and exhilarating, it can be hard to recognize feelings of culture shock. I expected culture shock to be a conscious experience, but it is actually a rather unconscious process. Out of nowhere, several of us have experienced feelings of depression and heightened emotion. I think, at least for me, part of this has to do with the poverty many people are living in as well as how much women are repressed. While it is clear many people live in tents outside the palace ground, it seems so normalized here that it sometimes takes a while to comprehend the extreme difference of our lives in this palace with their lives on the sides of roads. In Ahmedabad, women with babies would come up to the car, gesturing that they needed food. It also takes a while to realize how different it is to be a woman here. Since in America we often associate bright colors, beautifully draped clothes, bare midriffs, and piercings with empowered females, it is easy to forget how patriarchal this society is. When a woman is married here, she is not supposed to wear certain colors like blue, black, white, and grey as they are associated with widowhood. Women are also supposed to wear certain jewelry to indicate their marital status. It was difficult to watch a young girl marry in a neighboring village called Jesada, as it was clearly the worst day of her life; she looked absolutely devastated. She did not get to choose her partner, she was about to be separated from her family, and she now had to lose many freedoms she once had in order to serve her husband. In addition, an eleven-year-old girl was also to be married. Though she does not have to leave her family until she is older, it was shocking to witness something like this. Now I know, especially after feeling so happy most of the time and then occasionally terrible out of nowhere that these experiences can be wonderful, but they must be processed. As anthropologists we must keep our minds open, but at the same time, we must recognize when certain issues push our ethical buttons.

Ready for Rabat!

Standard
Ready for Rabat!

Marhaban (“Hello”)! My name is Alex Ennes and I’m a rising junior at Temple studying English with minors in Arabic and Criminal Justice – I’m also blogging for Temple during my summer in Morocco! I leave in just a week and I can’t wait to get on my plane. This summer, I’ll be living in a homestay in the city of Rabat and I’m itching to meet my host family. Although I’m excited, I’ve recently felt a little nervous about speaking Arabic on a regular basis. I’ve had great prep (four semesters worth!) but it’s intimidating to commit to living in a country where it’s spoken on the regular. I’m nervous about learning Darija, the colloquial dialect in Morocco, but I’m sure the transition from FusHa (modern standard Arabic) will be easy enough. All of my thinking about using Arabic this summer has led me to remembering why I chose the language in the first place…

If you’re a Liberal Arts student at Temple, you know the three-course language requirement for a liberal arts degree very well. I took Latin in high school and thought about continuing in college, but I figured I would start new. I didn’t really have a reason for choosing Arabic. I thought it looked and sounded pretty, and I figured it would be useful in a professional environment. I knew it would be hard, but I love learning languages and I figured that Arabic would present a good challenge – turns out, I was right!

Even though I didn’t have much of a reason for choosing Arabic, I absolutely fell in love with the language. I’m so grateful that I chose to learn this language, not only because of the incredible professors I’ve had, but also because it has opened my knowledge about Middle Eastern and North African culture. This last semester (Spring 2017), I took a class on the intersection of art and uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly during the Arab Spring. I absolutely loved that class because it taught me so much about the art and culture associated with the region. If you had asked me in high school, I wouldn’t have cared much about Middle Eastern and North African affairs, but now I find myself researching them regularly and consuming as much literature, art, and film I can find on Arab culture!

Culture may be what I’m most excited for this summer. I’m an English major, so it would have been easy for me to study abroad in England, Scotland, or Ireland where I could have learned about British literature or done some work on my poetry concentration, but I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and explore an entirely new culture. Because of how different American culture is from Moroccan culture, I expect that I’ll learn a lot and grow more as a person by stepping outside of the “Western” world. Even though immersing myself in an entirely different language and society is intimidating, I’m excited to start my journey. Hopefully I’ll return with a brand new understanding of the Arabic language and Moroccan culture.

My next post will be coming to you straight from Rabat, so get ready for a summer full of fun (and lots of hummus)! Until next time!

Getting ready for India

Standard

Hey folks! My name is Anna, and I am an undergraduate anthropology student at Temple University. This week I embark on my study abroad journey in Dhrangadhra, India! Fortunately, the children I nanny are 2nd generation Indian-American, and both parents speak Gujarati, the language spoken in Dhrangadhra. In fact, the seven-year-old daughter taught me the phrase modhu bandh which means “shut your mouth.” Surely this phrase will be invaluable in my field work! The parents have been generously helping me prepare for this experience by teaching me about food, inviting me to Indian-American community events, and telling me about their experiences as Indian-Americans both in America and in India.

For the past semester, I have been studying the craft of ethnography in anthropological and sociological fieldwork. Ethnography is a tricky medium. There are a variety of methodologies that can be used in field work. Among these approaches, some are more successful than others in avoiding ethnocentrism and considering cultural relativity. They may be specific to a social structure, comprehensive, or comparative. Ethnographic construction may involve writing, film, audio recording, and/or performance. I believe that now, at a time when globalization is spreading faster than paranoia and biases are eroding, it is important to establish ways to interact cross-culturally and publish these findings that are effective, respectful, and non-exploitative. Staying in Dhrangadhra for the entire month rather than dividing my time traveling to several different countries or regions will allow me to gain an appreciation for what it takes to adjust to life in a different culture far from home.  This skill is critical in anthropological work.

On an intellectual and spiritual level, my foremost curiosity is what is spirit and how is it linked to the body? From what I understand, there is an infinite number of answers to this question shaped by various cultural, temporal, geographical, and political factors. I know that what I want to do someday will be rooted in this question, and spending time in a place like Dhrangadhra will be a transformative experience that will allow me to explore it in new ways by observing and learning about religion, nutrition, medicine, and performance.

That’s all for now. See you in Dhrangadhra!

Final Consensus on Being Vegan in Prague

Standard

As I’ve spoken about before several times, I’m vegan, and therefore have a different perspective on cities and their food. When I was planning to come to Prague and when I first arrived, I was nervous that I would have an extremely hard time maintaining my veganism with ease. However, after living in Prague for about half a year and traveling to various other cities in Europe, I can make a pleasantly surprising verdict: Prague is a very vegan-friendly city. From the incredible number of fully vegan restaurants (many even have entirely raw menus, or sections that are completely raw, including soups, appetizers, deserts, and main courses, NOT just salads), to vegetarian/vegan restaurants, to restaurants of ethnicities that lend themselves to being vegan friendly, to vegan grocery stores and markets–Here are just a very few of my very favorite places to grab a vegan meal or snack:

Vegan’s:

This is a great, cute vegan restaurant on the hilly side of the river–it has a full restaurant upstairs, and a cute cafe on the ground floor. If you can make it all the way up the hill and then up about 10 narrow flights of spiral stairs, you’ll be rewarded with delish vegan food, everything from Indonesian inspired bowls with rice and tempeh, to amazing veggie burgers, to vegan lasagna, to several veganized traditional Czech foods like svičkova and gulaš. At the cafe downstairs, you can find coffees and teas made with plant-based milk, deserts, sandwiches and salads, and vegan snacks like date bars and chocolate.

Herbivore

Herbivore is an adorable vegan restaurant/grocery store, without a traditional menu (aside from the smoothies, acai bowls, and beverages), instead offering a range of buffet style dishes that change daily. I can’t recommend this little place enough–the people are lovely and the food is AMAZING.

Maitrea

Maitrea is a slightly more upscale vegetarian/vegan restaurant, right off of Old Town Square. The interior is breathtaking, especially when you go downstairs (another Prague spiral staircase); it looks like you’re stepping into Alice and Wonderland. It’s cavernous, and has pink walls and enormous lighting fixtures that look like real flowers hanging from the ceiling–seriously just go for the aesthetic. The menu is large and varied, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Lemon Leaf

Thai is my absolute favorite food in the world, and I’ve actually struggled to find a Thai restaurant in Prague that rivals my favorite from home. Lemon Leaf, a beautiful, open Thai restaurant, is a great option. As is common with Thai, it’s incredibly easy to find vegan dishes, and their food tastes amazing and is obviously fresh and high quality.

Lovin’ Hut

Lovin’ Hut is another vegan restaurant and grocery store. Their selection is great, and you can always count on a fresh bottle of Nemleko–a local Czech brand of almond and poppyseed milk with the purest ingredients list you’ll ever find. It’s a great place to stock up on your vegan essentials, if you like to branch from normal whole foods into fancy specialized stuff, or treat-yo-self snacks.

  1. 16265634_1842001699421476_105668064414458127_n.jpg16298731_1842001742754805_8110714908661832867_n.jpg

Spring in Prague

Standard

IMG_8213.JPGIMG_8212.JPGAfter an extremely long, freezing, and draining but beautiful winter, spring is finally upon us in Prague. Because I’d only known Prague in the winter, I didn’t realize how beautiful it could be (and how much easier life could be when you don’t have to worry about freezing to death!). Although it is a very winter-ey city, Prague really shines in the warm weather, and there are so many great things to do and see that are even more fun in the sunshine. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Petrin Hill

Petrin Hill is a beautiful hillside on the castle-side of the Vltava River, which runs through the center of Prague. The hill is covered in meadows and flowering trees, and has many winding paths to lead you to the top. It’s a popular place to lounge in the sun or picnic, and you’ll often find couples or groups of friends with wine and snacks dotting the hillside. It also has spectacular views of the entire city, so it’s a great place to rest after a hike to soak up the orange roofs.

2.  Charles Bridge at Sunrise

Although Charles Bridge is beautiful, and a definite must-see when visiting Prague, it is absolutely packed with tourists almost all hours of the day; most locals and people who live here know to avoid it when possible. However, I highly recommend walking the bridge when it’s empty, as it really allows you to appreciate the views and the bridge itself. A great time to do so is early in the morning, not just because it’s empty, but because Charles Bridge is one of the best locations in Prague to watch the sunrise. The sunrise in the winter is great (bonus points because it isn’t until 8 am…), but the springtime beauty more than makes up for the earlier call time. You’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time if you’re able to experience an empty city.

3. Jogging

Running in Prague can be tricky if you’re not used to cobblestones (correction: walking in Prague can be tricky if you’re not used to cobblestones), but if your foot and ankle muscles have gone through a strength and balance bootcamp like mine have, Prague is a great place to enjoy a morning run. I definitely recommend jogging in the morning or late evening, when the crowds have thinned, but there are also some great parks that are run-able whenever’s convenient for you. Running also gives you a great appreciation for the accessibility of the city; Prague is a very manageable, walkable city, and going for a jog is a great way to get your bearings for sight seeing later in the day. I love to run from my apartment to old town square, across the Vltava, along the river to the lesser town, back across the river and back again. You can also take advantage of the massive, Budapest-esque hills, and get some extra leg action by incorporating them into your route.

4. Picnics

In the warm weather, a great lunch or dinner option is grabbing some fruit and hummus and picnicing in one of Prague’s beautiful parks. Petrin Hill, that I mentioned before, is a great option (you can also work up an appetite on your way up), but there are also several other parks dotted around the city. A favorite of mine is right across the Charles Bridge on the Vltava; it’s also where you’ll find the giant-faceless-baby sculptures. There’s also a beautiful one on an island in the river, easily accessible from the center of the Legion Bridge.

5. Markets

On Easter weekend, Prague explodes with markets in every square and park, and many stay throughout the spring season; grab a trdelník, beer, or sausage, and experience the festival culture in Prague.

Deutschland und Österreich

Standard
Deutschland und Österreich

This past weekend I went to Munich to visit my aunt who finished a business trip. I arrived very late on Friday night to her hotel. We had a couple drinks and chatted. It was so nice to see someone from my family again. We got to sleep early, because the next morning we were going to Salzburg, Austria for the day.

We had to be at the train station by 9AM. We made it on time, surprisingly. My aunt and I are known to be late all the time. But we made it! The train ride lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. We didn’t get to see the Alps because it was so cloudy and raining.

Most of the day it rained, but that didn’t stop us! We followed our tour-guide through the city and saw Mozart’s house, some scenes from the Sound of Music, and later ate Kraze-Kramer’s! They’re frankfurter’s with cheese on the inside in a sandwich with mustard. It was soooooo good! I bit into it, and it splattered all over my aunt’s jacket. I pretended I didn’t notice for a couple minutes until I pointed it out.

We saw cathedrals, walked around beautiful open-air markets, and stores. My favorite part was taking a lift to the mountain overlooking the city. We could see the entire city from there. Here is a picture:

image2

We walked around up there for a while and saw that there were even more views to be seen. That night I went to the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus (The Royal Brewery) a pint of beer and some frankfurters with potato salad. They played traditional Bavarian music and saw some people dancing in the central hall.

The next day we went to the Schloss Nymphenburg (The Palace of the Nymphs), which is modeled partially after Versailles. I am a sucker for Rococo architecture, so I was in heaven when I saw nymphs flying on the paintings on the ceiling. My aunt and I took a tour of the palace and then walked outside in the gardens. There were ducks and wild animals around, and it was very nice to catch up with my aunt.

After that, we decided to go back to the city center to see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, which is a big clock on a cathedral in the center square (Marienplatz) at 5pm, when it rings and marionettes dance. After this finished, we walked to the English gardens and saw the sunset. We walked to the beer gardens, despite my aunt’s hesitations, and in fact the beer gardens were opened! We each had a beer, bread, and an artichoke heart. On on walk back home I got a McFlurry and we went back early because my flight Monday morning was very early the next morning. I caught a train at 4:40AM and got to my 7AM flight on time.

When I got on the plane I had a smile on my face with memories to remember for the rest of my life, as a turned my thoughts to my life back in Lyon.

Birthday Surprise!

Standard
Birthday Surprise!

I’m so sorry I have not posted in a while, but so much has happened that I must share!

Roughly a month ago was my 21st birthday, and I know I shouldn’t share too much, but I’ll let you in on some details. My actually birthday was the morning I arrived in Lyon from Lisbon. Our flight was delayed over three hours, and instead of arriving at 11:30 PM 26 February, we arrived at 2:45AM 27 February. Needless to say we were exhausted. We split an uber from the airport to the train station, because it was equal for us and some other Sciences Po students we knew. From there at 4AM, I decided to take a quick bike ride home. It was a bit scary that early in the morning, but I got home safe at 4:20AM and went right to bed. The next morning, my first thought waking up at noon was to take a run…maybe it’s best not to listen to intuition, but I did it anyway. And hey who needs a phone!? so I didn’t bring it with me and somehow ended up in Caluire-et-Cuire, a suburb roughly a 10 minute ride from Lyon. Well then my intuition kicked in and aided me and I came home about a half hour before my class. After a quick shower, I was only 10 minutes late to class. I was quite proud of myself.

Okay I know this sounds crazy, but my life works in strange ways and I like it better that way.

That night after class, a lot of my friends either weren’t in Lyon, or were too tired or ill to go out after a week of traveling. Just three friends and I went to one of our favorite places, Ho36, which is a hostel that has a bar and restaurant. We had some nice drinks and enjoyed each other’s company, while we told stories of our trip. They went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, and Milan. I was quite jealous when I heard of their trips, but then again I had an amazing time in Paris, Barcelona, and Lisbon!

That night my host family decided we’d order Chinese food. We got it from my favorite Chinese restaurant in Lyon, which is just right by our apartment. Afterwards my host mom and sister went into the other room and I heard them start to sing happy birthday. They came in with cupcakes and sang happy birthday in French and English. I was overcome with emotion and got choked up. I feel as if I have another family in France. They gave me gifts as well – a Swiss army knife with my name inscribed on it, Spanish chocolates (they spent the week in Sevilla), and a keychain that read “I’m in the mood for a fiesta”.

That weekend I celebrated my birthday three nights in a row: the first two going out and the second, which I’ll describe, staying at a friend’s. So after two nights of celebrating, I just really wanted to stay at home but my friends were insistent that I go to my friend Staci’s house. I decided to go and when I knocked on the door, there was immediate silence and accidentally Staci stepped on a balloon. I walked in and everyone yelled…you guessed it:

surprise!

At that point I was so overwhelmed I teared up a bit. I have the best friends and the best adopted family anyone could ask for. Certainly a birthday to remember for a lifetime.

IMG_0770[5428]

Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

Standard
Lisboa, um fim de semana de celebração de carnaval

We escaped the rain of Catalonia, to arrive to bright and sunny days ahead in Lisbon (fr. Lisbonne, portugese Lisboa)! We arrived at our hostel four hours early (Anna was not too happy with me). In the meantime we stayed at the lounge of the hostel and had breakfast with the people that were getting up from the night before. It was a really chill atmosphere and everyone was really friendly.

After waiting until our 2pm check in time, we came to our room with an amazing view! Three steps from my bed, and we stepped out onto a terrace overlooking the Rio Tejo.

 

We then met up with our friend Chloe, an other Temple student and walked throughout the city. There were beautiful beaches on the river, grand monuments, large white cathedrals, and my favorite, the colorful buildings. We made our way to a small public area overlooking the city that offered amazing views and photo ops.

That night we had dinner at our hostel. It was an ABC party for Carnaval. I picked out the finest costumes from the hostel’s dress-up chest and decided to wear a cape and a green curly wig. I sat next to a guy that dressed up like Julius Caesar and had a great meal.

The next morning we decided to walk all the way to the other side of the city in Belem. We walked through what seemed a deserted town, until we reached Belem, where we saw the Belem Tower, the Praça do Império, and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jeronimos Monastery). The area seemed to be a small jewel far away from the bustling area of the city we were in.

We had to take an Uber back after that long walk, but when we almost reached our final destination, the traffic was bumper to bumper because of a Carnaval parade on the Avenida da Liberdade (the main boulevard). We got out and Anna headed back to the hostel, but Chloe and I stayed to see the large public park called Marquis of Pombal Square. It had panoramic views of the city and a lovely ambiance of relaxation. After that, I got lost trying to find the hostel. I saw the city better that way, but it was a little nerve wracking when my phone died. I made it back and we had dinner again. We were so tired we just stayed in and talked with the people at the hostel.

The next morning we took the train to Sintra, a beautiful suburb and hour northwest of the city. Round trip cost me 4.04 euros. When we got off the train, we saw massive castles tucked in forests and as we continued to walk, we realized we were on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. But as life goes, we only had an hour and a half to spend there. We had a flight to catch. We had to take the train back, pick up our stuff at the hostel, and then take the subway to the airport. When we arrived at the aeroporto, we had to then take a bus to our terminal, only to find out our flight had been delayed 1 hour and 50 minutes. Needless to say, I was pissed.

Well we boarded at 9:50PM and did not arrive to Lyon until 2:45 in the morning. We took an Uber with two other Sciences Po exchange students to the city. I took my velo (bike) from the station to my apartment and did not arrive at home until 3:30AM and didn’t fall asleep until 4:40AM.

The rest of my week was filled with relaxation and celebrations for my 21st, which was the day I arrived so early in the morning from the holidays.

 

Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

Standard
Barcelona, la capital de la Cataluña

In continuing my previous blog post, I left the readers at a cliff hanger. Here’s the resolution. After my mom and Riley left, I packed my bags and took a shower. It was nice to have some serenity before traveling. Then I had to pick up a bus from the Eiffel Tower that drove me to Orly Airport. When I arrived, I was a bit nervous because this was my first international flight alone. As I passed through security, I worried my bags would be too heavy. After I passed through the metal detector and my bag went through the check, a security man asked to look through my bag. Suddenly a pang of uneasiness washed over me. He took out everything from my bag and put it back through the security check. He couldn’t find anything, but we talked for a while as he searched my items. It was relieving to know that even when you do international travel alone, there are still people so kind and helpful.

And my flight was great on the way there. I would highly recommend Vueling (Spanish budget airlines). They played some cool music on the flight, I got my first hearing of a language I wasn’t familiar with (and man could these Spanish speakers speak fast!).

I arrived in Barcelona on time and took a bus into the city. As I walked down the Rambla, there were cool restaurants and ice cream shops all around. I of course had to get an ice cream cone with mystery flavor electric blue coloring (I had no idea what I was ordering at that point). I met Anna down the Rambla near our hostel (Kabul Party Hostel) at the Placa Reial. We dropped our stuff off and then got dinner on the Rambla. It was so cool! The food was amazing, not to mention our massive Sangria glasses. We were so tired by the end, that we didn’t go out. But our hostel had other ideas. We were on the second floor and it was so loud and congested in our room (I would not recommend staying there).

The second day we went on a walking tour. There were two options, a Gaudi walking tour or a Gothic walking tour. Since we were staying in the Gothic quarter, we decided to venture out to see the works of the famous Catalonian artist Antoni Gaudi. What we saw was astounding. This man was absolutely crazy in his designs and artistic conceptions. A dark beauty, a colorful extraordinaire, a quirky design all in one.

But of course the creme de la creme was La Sagrada Familia, an imposing cathedral in its 135th year of construction. When completed it will be the largest and most elaborate cathedral in Europe, possibly the world. Here are some pictures:

IMG_0260

image5

La Sangrada Familia

From there, Anna and I decided to walk all the way up to the top of Barcelona to get a better view of the city. We came upon the Park Guell, an expansive public park overlooking Barcelona. There are small houses there, massive and beautiful gardens, and also a large centerpiece of Gaudi’s Catalan modernism architecture style. We bought tickets to see his tile work, but were told by a friend who we randomly ran into that if we waited until 6:30 it was free. Anyway, it was going toward the city and for refurbishment of Gaudi’s architecture, so it was a good cause. The views from this park were simply breathtaking.

 

That night we had dinner at another restaurant and I ate seafood, which was quite good and very filling. We took a walk near the Mediterranean port area, which was beautiful at night. We couldn’t go out that night because the next morning we had a 7AM flight. We packed and went to sleep. We only had four hours of sleep when we woke up at 4AM. We checked out and then made our bus at 5AM when it began to rain. We made it on time and everything from there was smooth sailing (flying).

The flight was loud again (wow the Catalans can talk!), but I was too excited for what lied ahead…

Paris…and more

Standard
Paris…and more

Hello, dear readers! I am sorry I have been incognito the past few weeks. Much has happened and now I can’t wait to share with you. I will be doing my blog this week in three posts, one for each city I visited last week.

Last week, my mom and brother Riley came to visit me in Lyon. They arrived Friday morning at the Part Dieu train station. They settled in their hotel and then we went straight to the Ferris Wheel to see the city. It was so cool to get to see the city from that vantage point, and to go on a structure I see everyday. From there we walked around Vieux Lyon, the “Old City” of Lyon. I was not very familiar of this part of the city, so it was informational for me as well. Then we went back to the area I lived in to have dinner — pizza! Okay, before you say anything, all other places were closed or full and we really needed to get something to eat.

img_0754

The next day, Riley and I biked to Parc de la Tete d’Or and ran in the park. Then we came back to my apartment, met with my host family, and then took a stroll back to the park. As it was the first day of the weather breaking, the park was packed! We walked through the zoo, the rose gardens, and we stopped for a rest at my favorite part of the park.

Sunday, I wan’t feeling too well, so we had to skip some other things. But we did go to the Basilisque Notre Dame de la Fouvriere for mass, afterwards seeing a beautiful view of the city. We then got dinner.

Monday morning we got up early for a 9am train to Paris. We got to Paris on time, but then had to take two metros to get to our hotel. It was a pretty nice hotel and we had two floors to our room! I thought that was the coolest thing. It was right by the Eiffel Tower, so we started our walk near there. Then we continued to the Louvre, where we saw the Mona Lisa. It was the second time I went to the Louvre and I wanted to see other sections of the museum, but for my mom and Riley, we had to see it. As Riley and my mom looked at souvenir shops, I sat outside in the Tuileries Garden posing as a crabby old man you find in many French gardens (I’ve seen them glare at me as I wear my tourist outfits). We finished the day walking to the Arc de Triumph and having dinner near our hotel.

Tuesday, we stayed on the Left Bank, Ile-de-la-Cite, and Ile-Saint-Louis. We walked past Hotel des Invalides (Napoleon’s final resting rotunda), Sciences Po Paris (not to be confused with Sciences Po Lyon), the Sorbonne, and finally the crown jewel—Notre Dame de Paris. We took pictures of us standing at the center mark of Paris, right in front of the Cathedrale. We walked inside and said a prayer, while marveling at the 854 year old architecture. The magic came when Riley and I took a trip to the top of the southern tower. The pictures of the view do not even give the full feeling of being in the presence of such a monumental structure, the pinnacle of French Gothic art and the setting of Victor Hugo’s famous Notre Dame de Paris. 1482, or the English version The Hunchback of Notre Dame. We then walked to the Luxembourg Gardens and next door Saint-Sulpice, where the prime meridian use to run.

We finished our time with a great dinner and even better conversations. The next morning as my mom and brother left, suddenly my Parisien romantic bubble burst as I realized my flight was later that afternoon. But not to worry, more adventure awaited…