Sweden Part 1

I loved Scandinavia so much that I had to return!  Over our two week break, I explored Stockholm and its archipelago.  I spent my first few days just in the city.  The harbor is gorgeous.  I saw the famous (or infamous) Vasa warship from the 1600s and the largest IKEA store in the world (IKEA is a Swedish company).

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

Stockholm Harbor

Vasa warship - Stockholm

Vasa warship – Stockholm

Vasa warship - Stockholm

Vasa warship – Stockholm

Stockholm

Stockholm

IKEA - Stockholm

IKEA – Stockholm

Back on American Soil (for a couple hours)

After World War II, a great cemetery was constructed in honor of the American men and women who fought to help protect their English allies.  Technically the ground is American soil and we saw our first real American flag in a long time.  It was a proud and patriotic moment for all of us.

American Cemetery - Cambridge, England

American Cemetery – Cambridge, England

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American Cemetery – Cambridge, England

 

American Cemetery - Cambridge, England

American Cemetery – Cambridge, England

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American Cemetery – Cambridge, England

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The Closest I’ll Be to Being a Kite

This past break from internships, we had the oppurtunity to visit the iconic beaches of Manuel Antonio. After seeing the beautiful coastline full of monkeys and wildlife and salty, blue water, I knew that I wanted to see the coast from above. I decided to go parasailing. Between the three people on the parasail, there were three different languages spoken-English, Spanish and Sign Language. Each of us knew at least two of the languages. I thought it was amazing that after learning about how to communicate a little bit in sign language in our time in Granada, Nicaragua, I could use what I learned. It just goes to show that you learn something new everyday and that you might be able to actually use it in the future. 

Pupusa Professionals!

During a week long break from our internships during Holy Week here in Costa Rica, our Valpo group visited a cooperative community of El Salvadoran immigrants preserving their culture through living communally. Pictured here is Valpo Junior, Shannon Segin and I learning how to make the traditional dish of pupusas in Longo Mai!

Confessions of a Former Francophile

So, to celebrate Easter, I decided to my friend  Pam in Paris. It  was my first time in France’s capital and a trip that I had been dreaming about since I was a kid. When I was younger, one of my favorite book was called Little Jeanne of France  by Madeline Brandeis and told the story of a girl named Jeanne and her adventures in France. And so, France, and Paris in particular, became somewhat of a destination for me. I was dead set on visiting France someday, made my mother start teaching me phrases in French, and even tried to turn in an assignment in first grade written in what I thought was an accurate written representation of the French language, only to have my teacher think that I was struggling with spelling.  My favorite book growing up was the account of a British ex-pat’s go in Southern France, A Year in Provence.  I continually attempted to add small french phrases into my vocabulary and dreamed of Time’s  fashion issue where there was sure to be a number of French fashion designers. Until I reached middle school in a town that offered no French classes, I had fully planned on taking up study of the French language and happily moving to France in some far-off future. But, as with all things in life, plans changed and I ended up in a German class which eventually lead me to my year in Tübingen.

Despite having less of a connection to French language and culture, I still have enjoyed visiting the border cities to Germany and enjoying the delicious food and drink, never fully making it to Paris.  So when I found out that Pam was going to be studying there and in nearby Cergy, I jumped at the chance of avoiding costly hotel fees and getting to see the city with someone who knew their way around.

The trip was short, but totally worth it to see some of the most beautiful sites that the city had to offer and to get to experience some of the things that I  had so long dreamt of.  It was a culmination of a lot of what I had wanted for such a long time and definitely a place that I will come back to explore further.

The best experience was visiting the Tuileries.  I think that the best introduction to my visit is summed up with a quote from Brandeis herself:

“The little girls passed through the Tuileries, which are like fairy gardens. They are a children’s paradise and part of the dream that Paris is”(140).

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It was a beautifully sunny day when we visited the Tuileries and the lovely weather helped to highlight the  well-manicured park. We walked around and  got café au lait and drank it whilst sitting in some chairs. Now, I am no longer a child and a bit too old to believe in fairies, but the magic of the Tuileries still existed for me. I especially liked the long rows of bushes at the far end that  seemed like a great place to get away from the world and relax and enjoy good weather.

 

I also adored riding the metro. I am huge fan of public transportation, so any time that I can use a system in a major city, I could basically spend the entire day riding around.  The name of each stop was repeated twice during the approach, which sounded like  a language instruction tape to me and provided a good opportunity to practice my pronunciation of the French language.

 

Reenacting Amelie at the Sacre Coeur

Reenacting Amelie at the Sacre Coeur

On Easter, Pam and I went to the American Church (since, unfortunately, my French vocabulary is limited to foods and swear words) and ate lunch next to the Seine.  We also saw a lot of the classic tourist attractions, which I think aren’t necessary to mention here. However, we did find a café  that is a bit of an inside joke:

 

A cafe that is what it is.

A cafe that is what it is.

Bis bald!

A link  to an electronic copy of Little Jeanne of France  via Project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/40806/40806-h/40806-h.htm

Luck of the Irish

Hello again! For the past almost two weeks, everyone at the Center has been on Spring Break! We’ve all been very excited for this break, and we’ve all been traveling to so many different places. For me, the place that I have always wanted to visit is Ireland. I am part Irish, and I wanted to spend a good amount of time there, more than just a weekend.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

To start the break, four of us travelled to Dublin. We visited Dublin Castle, Dublin Gardens, Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Guinness Storehouse, just to name a few things. None of us really knew much about Irish history, so having a tour of Dublin Castle was very educational, because we got to learn a lot about Irish history. The most interesting things had to do with the 1916 Easter uprisings, which  led to the eventual independence of Ireland a few years later.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

The next day, the other three went on a Cliffs of Moher bus tour, but I went on a bus tour to Belfast and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Giant’s Causeway was definitely my favorite part of the entire trip. The causeway is made of up hexagon-shaped volcanic rocks coming up out of the ocean. Some are a few inches big, while others are several feet tall. It was so much fun to climb over all of them and look out over the view of the sea and the rocks. I could even see the coast of Scotland from the causeway.

Galway Bay

Galway Bay

After another night in Dublin, I split off from the group and travelled to Galway on the western coast of Ireland. Galway is a very small town, and is most famous for the Claddagh friendship ring and the “Galway Girl” Irish folk song. I enjoyed walking around the small town and popping into pubs to hear the live Irish music. My hostel was right in the center of the city, so I was within walking distance of everything.

Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle

I travelled on two bus tours while I was in Galway. The first was a Cliffs of Moher and the Burren tour. Unfortunately, the rain and fog were so thick, and the wind was so strong, that I could barely see ten feet in front of me, and the Cliffs were not visible. However, I did enjoy seeing the Burren, which is the rocky landscape that covers the area. Our tour guide told us that the Burren has the same landscape as that of the moon, so that was interesting to see. I also got to get out and see Dunguaire Castle, which is iconic in that region of Ireland.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

The second tour I took was of a northwest part of Ireland called Connemara. We stopped at Kylemore Abbey, which is a castle right on the edge of a lake in the mountains of Ireland. It was a gorgeous day (besides being cold and windy) and I got to walk around the grounds and explore the gardens. We also stopped and saw the Killary Fjord, which is 16 miles long, Loughs Mask and Nafooey, and the town of Cong, where they filmed the movie “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. I got to see the mountainous parts of Ireland on this tour, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

I had a fantastic time in Ireland, and have had a great time staying at home in Cambridge for the rest of break and hanging out with people here. Up next is my week with my mom, who is visiting from the US!

Castles Trip Part 3

On the last leg of our journey, C-95 journeyed to Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric landmarks in the world.  One of the interesting things about site is that the stones frame the sunset on the Equinoxes and we were there the day after the equinox so the sun would have been framed fairly well at sunset.  However we were there in the middle of the afternoon.  After Stonehenge, we visited Hampton Court Palace on the southwest side of London.  This was the palace of King Henry VIII, and the monarchs William and Mary.  It was a beautiful estate, both inside and out.

Stonehenge - (left to right) Emily P., Jessica, Sarah

Stonehenge – (left to right) Emily P., Jessica, Sarah

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Main Dining Room - Hampton Court Palace

Main Dining Room – Hampton Court Palace

a courtyard - Hampton Court Palace

a courtyard – Hampton Court Palace

Castles Trip Part 2

For the next part of our journey, we traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of William Shakespeare) and saw the play “The Jew of Malta.”  The next day we traveled to Bath and saw the ancient baths that the Romans built on top of the natural springs in the southwestern part of England.

Live performances outside Shakespeare's childhood home

Live performances outside Shakespeare’s childhood home

Stratford-Upon-Avon downtown

Stratford-Upon-Avon downtown

Cathedral in Bath

Cathedral in Bath

The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths (statues of emperors around the top viewing gallery)

The Roman Baths (statues of emperors around the top viewing gallery)

Roman Baths

Roman Baths

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Cresent w/ Emily P.

The Royal Cresent w/ Emily P.

The Royal Crescent w/ Emily P.

The Royal Crescent w/ Emily P.

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent

Castles Trip Part 1

On March 20th, all of us at the Cambridge program set off on our Castles Trip.  Our first stop was to see Coventry Cathedral, which is actually three cathedrals… The newest one is actually still under construction and looks vaguely familiar… *cough cough* Chapel of the Resurrection… There are a lot of connections between Coventry and Valparaiso University.  We even have our own designated bench!

Partial Solar Eclipse in England!

Partial Solar Eclipse in England!

Second Cathedral which was bombed by the Nazis

Second Cathedral which was bombed by the Nazis

New Coventry Cathedral!  Look Familiar?

New Coventry Cathedral! Look Familiar?

Old cross left after the Nazi bombing

Old cross left after the Nazi bombing

Valparaiso University bench

Valparaiso University bench

"Father Forgive" - Forgive the Nazis of what they have done (first reaction from the people of Coventry)

“Father Forgive” – Forgive the Nazis of what they have done (first reaction from the people of Coventry)

Guest Blog–Shannon Segin in Costa Rica

SMILING IN COSTA RICA

 

“Many are the plans in the mind of the man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” ~Proverbs 19:21

 

A year ago, if you had asked me where I was going to be spring semester 2015, I would have told you Namibia. Six months ago, if you had asked me where I was going to be spring semester 2015, I would have told you Thailand. Three months ago, if you had asked me where I was going to be spring semester 2015, I would have told you Costa Rica. Although they are all great opportunities, I was anxious with the uncertainty and instability of my study abroad plans. After almost three months of life in San José, Costa Rica, this anxiety has vanished. It has been three months full of beautiful moments, of which I have included a few snapshots:

Puriscal, Costa Rica.

Puriscal, Costa Rica.

A glimpse of a three-hour hike through a river in Puriscal.

A glimpse of a three-hour hike through a river in Puriscal.

The central art market in downtown San José, AKA souvenir central.

The central art market in downtown San José, AKA souvenir central.

Casado de trucha (traditional plate with fresh trout). Rice and beans (the dark pool on my plate) are part of almost every meal, along with plantains (bottom left corner, this type somewhat resembles a banana). There is often salad or some vegetable, like the chayote (green squash-like vegetable beneath the rice). Oh, and sometimes a fish head (up top, (s)he’s looking at you), of which all parts are eaten including the eyes. They say the cheeks are the most delicious, however I am not quite that bold.

Casado de trucha (traditional plate with fresh trout). Rice and beans (the dark pool on my plate) are part of almost every meal, along with plantains (bottom left corner, this type somewhat resembles a banana). There is often salad or some vegetable, like the chayote (green squash-like vegetable beneath the rice). Oh, and sometimes a fish head (up top, (s)he’s looking at you), of which all parts are eaten including the eyes. They say the cheeks are the most delicious, however I am not quite that bold.

A view of the sunset when we arrived at our hotel on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

A view of the sunset when we arrived at our hotel on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

We spent some time in Bribri with indigenous people learning to make chocolate.

We spent some time in Bribri with indigenous people learning to make chocolate.

The oldest church in Costa Rica that still holds services located in Orosi.

The oldest church in Costa Rica that still holds services located in Orosi.

Besides the fact that studying abroad is a collective experience, and all of the events have happened in the same general vicinity, there is a thread that ties all of these beautiful moments together: communication. I remember my first night here, when Heidi and Alfonso (our directors) dropped me off at my host family’s house that would officially be mine for the next four months. My heart was racing, and I’m sure my eyes were as wide as could be as I tried to rapidly piece together the Spanish that I studied more than four years ago. To put it plainly, the first few days/weeks included a lot of smiling, nodding, pointing and very broken Spanish, but here I am alive and well! As I started to adjust and study Spanish again at the University of Costa Rica, things gradually become more comfortable and less overwhelming. By no means does that mean that the transition was easy. With the exception of some of our class lectures with Heidi, every moment of every day was in Spanish. Simply functioning and communicating with people around me required an enormous amount of energy. My brain was constantly translating, piecing together the simplest of sentences, and there were moments where all I wanted was to hear a “Hello, how are you?” instead of “Buenas, cómo está?” In the midst of my frustration, I was grateful for Skype and iMessage, where I could escape for a few moments with a text or short conversation in English. Even more so, however, I came to deeply appreciate a smile.

My host dad, Marvin, knows very little English. Talking with him has been a growing, and sometimes frustrating process. Marvin loves to laugh, and his smile is contagious. Although there are times I have no idea what he is talking about, I can always count on his smile to bring the moment to life.

Marvin.

Marvin.

Never before have I understood the strength of a smile as I do now.

During our time in Nicaragua, we visited “Hamacas Tio Antonio,” a hammock store in Granada. Attached to the hammock store was “Café de Sonrisas,” a little restaurant where we all had lunch. “Café de Sonrisas” literally translates to “Café of Smiles.” At “Café de Sonrisas,” all of the employees are either deaf or mute, and as a customer you have to learn to communicate with your waiter or waitress. The idea behind the name is that a smile is universal; a smile is a smile, and no matter what languages you can or can’t speak, you can communicate with a smile. There is a wall full of useful signs used in sign language, and the menu is designed to function simply by pointing your finger to an object or picture. As I sat in the restaurant eating lunch with my classmates, I was in awe of how cool the organization was. Deaf and mute people had full-time, just, and secure employment, whereas without this organization, they might/probably would not. Even more so, they were not working in an environment where they were the outcast or in a “lesser/need to adapt” position. No. Instead, the customers adapt, if only just for a little while, to what life might be like for someone who cannot speak or cannot hear. At the end of our meal, the owner told us to stay seated, because they had a surprise for us. As they started bringing out dessert, each one of us also received a tiny Ziploc bag wrapped in paper. Before we dove into our dessert, they instructed us to open our packets. Inside, we each had a pair of earplugs, and we were told that dessert was a time to truly communicate without speaking. So, for ten minutes, as we ate our delicious plantain dessert, we sat waiving our hands, using facial expressions, and experiencing some valid communication frustration. During the rest of our visit to Nicaragua, I couldn’t shake this experience from my mind.

As I write and reflect on my time in Costa Rica thus far, I think I finally understand one of the reasons “Café de Sonrisas” was so impactful. While my Spanish has drastically improved, there are mountains of things still to be learned. Wherever you go, to get anywhere, to find a pretty view, to learn from the indigenous people, to know what to order at a restaurant, etc. you must communicate with people. When I got here, it was as if I had earplugs in and needed to communicate in sign language, a language of which I knew very little, and I found refuge in other’s smiles because a smile I could understand. While at first communicating was difficult and, at times frustrating, it is amazing to reminisce about all of the beautiful moments I have had despite some of the communication barriers. Thinking about all of these moments makes it difficult to think about getting on a plane back to Chicago.

We have about a month left, and I look forward to more beautiful moments to come. Holy Week starts on Monday and Holy Week is the main vacation week here in Costa Rica, so all of our internship locations are closed. Thus, like the majority of Costa Ricans, we are going on vacation. I am looking forward to a week outside of the city. We will go to Longo Mai, a rural farming village for a few days to get a different perspective of Costa Rican life, and then on Wednesday we will head to Manuel Antonio, a very famous beach. It will be a great break away from the city life of San Jose, and then we will return to finish strong at our internships. The goal for the next month: discover more beauty. The nice thing is…it won’t be hard to do.

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