Back to the New World

We finally came home after an adventure of a lifetime.  I have made such wonderful and lifelong friends.  There are things about England that I miss, but at the same time there are other things that I appreciate even more about the states.

Land Ho!!! I’ve made it to America.

Double-Decker!

Double-Decker!

The Identity Question: Namibian Confrontations | Guest Blogger!

We close the front gate of our home in Windhoek and run downhill, our shirts already sticking to our sweating skin in the still-hot evening hours.   The sound of barking dogs follows us, the dogs straining against gates and fences as we whiz by.  When we make it to the top of the next hill, we see the golden halo of the sun illuminating the dusty purple mountains and a blanket of lights revealing the expanse of houses on the rolling landscape. This is one way Windhoek will be defined in our memories.  It will also be walking to the Wernhil Mall to pick up floss, potato chips, or chocolate – past the Polytechnic of Namibia, down a set of metal stairs and through a maze of taxi drivers.

Louise: When I make a purchase, the cashier asks if I am Brazilian –  a response that I have gotten from several people in Namibia because of my thick curly hair and skin that’s sometimes considered a shade too dark to only be a white person’s tan.  I am used to people misreading my race both at home and abroad, never guessing correctly that I am a quarter Chinese and three-quarters Caucasian.  However, I never thought about what it meant for people to misread my nationality.

Katie: People misread my nationality all the time.  I am ethnically 100% Chinese and because of my physical appearance, am automatically assumed to be from China and Chinese speaking.  In reality, the only part of me that identifies with China is my DNA.  I see myself as an American and nothing else so it can be abrupt when I’m walking and someone greets me in Mandarin or asks me if I’d like a cab to China Town.

Louise: This week in my history class, “Racism and Resistance in Southern Africa and the United States,” I started thinking more about nationality and how it impacts identity when we watched a video titled The Color of Fear.  The video documents a conversation about race relations in America amongst men of differing races.  One man of color participant, who did not identify as an American even though he was born and raised in America noted that, “The word American really means white to us.  It doesn’t incorporate all of us.”  While the video focused on American perceptions, it was interesting to see from my own experience in Namibia and traveling elsewhere that the correlation of American being synonymous with white exists on a global scale.  People who perceive me as white have no problem assuming that I am American, while people who perceive me as non-white jump to the conclusion that I am from Spain, Brazil or another Central or South American country.

Katie: I’ve often had the experience of having individuals that I meet argue with me about my nationality when I say I’m from America.  There is no hesitation in assuming I am Chinese because I do not fit the Caucasian stigma and then it is hard to convince anyone else wise.  My perceptions of myself are so very different than individuals I meet here.  However I have a double-edged sword: I am identified as both American and Chinese and neither are received completely favorably.  In our “Politics and Development in Southern Africa” class, we heard another unique Namibian perspective from Herbert who talked about the impacts of globalization in Namibia.  He discussed how the influence of Chinese investment in Namibia affected the country on an economic, political, and social level.  Using the textile industry he explained how exploitative China had become toward Namibian workers and how that created a lot of the xenophobic feelings in response.  I thought that was fascinating since I have experienced firsthand Namibians both gratifying from Chinese investment and then discrediting it in the same sentence quite often.

Louise: In another video in History, another man of color noted that he strongly identified as American, not because he felt like the stereotypical view of an American fit him, but because he felt that identifying as an American would help broaden the definition of who can be American.  Sometimes I want to run away from my American identity and leave it behind like the rows of barking dogs.  Sometimes I am proud that I can be perceived as a non-American and lose the stereotypes of Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s portrait of “the ugly American” intervening abroad – the arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance of Americans that breeds problems.  Yet other times I find it important to identify myself as an American, not only to broaden the definition of American, but also to recognize that I come from a place of privilege, as well as a place built on violence.  A place where my great great uncle had the power to authorize the poisoning of Patrice Lumumba’s toothpaste and his assassination.

Katie: The defining of nationality and ethic identification is a constant confrontation no matter what your story and genetic makeup are.  Whether you are a visitor or a citizen you are a representation of something greater than yourself.  Whether I identify with one race or am grouped with one by someone else, I am a representation of both things.  I would like to imagine that I can represent both my nationality and ethnicity with justice, however it is important to remember it is not one individual’s job to educate 2 million people on cultural sensitivity.

Louise: In reflecting on defining my own identity, it has also been an exercise in remembering that all of us have complex identities.  Just as there is no set portrait of an American, there is no set portrait of a Namibian.  Coming back from out homestays from last week, it was exciting to hear stories from my classmates about their unique experiences with diverse people – everything from going to church on Sunday morning, trying on traditional Herero and Oshiwambo clothing, or having a braai.

Katie: Identity is a concept created by people to limit experiences of others.  It establishes who someone is but in doing so trails multiple stigmas.  It is essential to realize that identity components are made up for humans, by humans.  In order to fully embrace an experience one should look past those limiting stigmas and meet the individual wherever she or he is at, without any predominating factors.

 

secret-identity-superhero shoes mapamonde

We’re Coming Home and the First Thing I Need is…

Hello all! Welp…it is time. Time for us here in Germany to make our ways back home. I know I speak for all of us in saying that it was an amazing time! But I figured I would give a little list of what I personally missed most (besides friends, family, and just good ol’ valpo). So here is a little top 3 things I missed from the U.S. while I was abroad!

3. Root Beer

Yes you read that correctly, root beer. Throughout my travels in Germany and in Europe in general, I can honestly say I NEVER came across a restaurant or store that sold root beer. Also another great American drink is Cream Soda. Both of these beverages along with Dr. Pepper were Missing in Action. So if you have a sugar addiction for any of these drinks, then you will be going through tough withdrawls. I can honestly say that I am excited to go to Red Robbin and get bottom-less root beer floats! Whos with me??

2. Jimmy’s Cafe

I really should have just said the classic American breakfast, but I knew I would get more peoples attention with Jimmy’s. German breakfast customs tend to differ with the different regions of Germany you travel to, however for example when our group visited Berlin, we received a complementary breakfast platter that included bread, cold cut meats and a vegetable platter with assorted cheeses as well. I miss waking up to the smell of fresh bacon with biscuits and gravy and chocolate chip pancakes. I tried explaining what biscuits and gravy was to a German, and lets just say it didn’t go so well. This number 2 is also coming from a breakfast lover. There may be other things obviously that you may miss more when or if you come abroad, but for a kid that grew up on his mother making amazing breakfast food, my heart is broken. Also quick shout out to my mom because she is the best cook and best mom in the world! Happy late mothers day again!

1. MEXICAN FOOD

Notice how Mexican food is in caps. Yeah I cannot stress that enough. I can also say for everyone in our group that this would be most everyone’s numero uno. Authentic Mexican food is a little tough to come by in the United States however in Germany, it is non-existant. The closest thing to Mexican food our group came in contact with was Chipotle in Frankfurt, Germany which is an hour and 45 minute train ride away from where we live. There are 2 Mexican food restaurants where we live, but I did not go to them, but from what I heard from friends who did go, the restaurants were not all that special. I think it is safe to say that the first thing I want to eat when I get home is some complementary chips and salsa then stuff myself with my burrito after I was already full from eating 2 trays of chips and salsa. I truly feel bad for my roomate and other Valpo students who have been here for longer and are staying longer than us because I could not make it.  Props to you guys, you da real MVP.

Now for a little personal tribute to the trip and on my experiences. I have seen things that I never thought in my life I would ever see. I have traveld to 9 different countries, lived in a foreign country for 4 months, and learned about German history in Germany. I will forever be greatful for the Valpo Reutlingen program because of what they have done for our entire group. This experience is something I will remember for the rest of my life. More importantly, this trip for all of us, has been a waking up moment. This trip helped us become more independent. All we had starting out was each other and we ended it with friends I never thought I would have met. I also, most importantly learned who are important in my life. Although I have had an amazing time here in Germany, it is time to come home. Thanks everyone for reading and I hope I at least sort of convinced you to travel to Germany. It was an amazing experience and I just want to thank everyone for reading again and everyone who I met here in Germany and also a BIG shout out to the faculty and staff over here for making our stay here amazing! Well everyone, see you tomorrow and thanks again for supporting this blog! Till then this is Austin P signing off for the last time!

 

Walking through Monteverde

As a reunion trip, us Valpo chicas went on a trip to La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano and the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, which is one of the most biodiverse beautiful places on earth. We had the opportunity to walk across the hanging bridges that look over of miles of lush forests full of chattering monkeys, colourful plants, and endangered species such as Kinkajous and some types of tropical birds. Walking through Monteverde

Hiking Trip

Just playing catch up, but two weeks ago, C-95 traveled north to the Lake District to hike among the sheep and stone walls.  We also were able to see Fountains Abbey (an old Abbey in ruins) and Chatsworth House (a rich family estate that the family opened as a tourist attraction in order to protect it from harsh taxes).  It was a great trip!

 

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

Saint Mary's Church - Fountains Abbey

Saint Mary’s Church – Fountains Abbey

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Lake District

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House Gardens with Sarah.

Chatsworth House Gardens with Sarah.

Final Farewell

Two days ago, everyone finished with final papers and projects at the Center. It is crazy how fast time has gone this semester. I know I speak for everyone when I say that it flew by much faster than we would have liked. Since I have been here longer than most people who do this program, I think it will be that much harder to say goodbye. For my final post, I just wanted to share a few thoughts and things I’ve learned while Studying Abroad.

The world is much bigger now. I have travelled to other countries before coming here, but that was nothing compared to living in another culture. I figured out how to travel on my own, and navigate a completely different culture on my own, and for that reason, I will never look at the world the same way anymore. I am no longer a part of a small, American bubble; I have international eyes.

IMG_6129It’s okay to not go it alone. I am a very independent person. I don’t mind going places on my own, and being on my own. Sometimes I function better that way. But I could not have done this without the people that I have had the honor of meeting this semester. They have taught me that I don’t always have to be alone, and that building relationships with them and making them my family is just as important as the things I’m doing and seeing.

Take the jump. I take risks all the time. I wasn’t afraid of spending a year in another country, away from my family and friends and my home. I knew that this place was going to be my home, and I was okay with that. But I have also learned that if I have ever had to make a decision about taking a day trip or staying home, going out or staying in, making friends or staying away, you take the jump. Do the things you might not want to do, and you might find something incredible. It’s worth the risk.

It’s okay to do things for you. One of the things that I am best at is taking care of other people. If you need help, you can bet that I’ll be there, and if you need me, I’m here for you. When you spend so much time taking care of other people, sometimes you forget to do things for yourself. This experience abroad has been all about doing things for me, and while that took a lot of getting used to, it was the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I got to know myself, who I am, and who I want to be so much better, just living here. It’s an eye-opening thing, and I am so grateful to have had that opportunity.

IMG_6107_2Goodbye is not forever. One of my housemates has said to me, “Turn what you love about this place, and make it your reason to come back.” Living here for a year, and not wanting to go home at all, it’s hard to hear someone say that, because it doesn’t help me feel better about leaving. But what he said was true, and it’s important to remember, because this doesn’t have to be the end. This place is your home; it leaves an impression on you, takes a piece of your heart. I know that I will be back, and that I have all these memories to hold onto. Saying goodbye to this experience doesn’t mean that this is where it ends; I will come back home.

It’s been an amazing year, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I appreciate the opportunities I have had while I’ve been here, and I look forward to the next chapter in my life as this one closes. Thank you all for reading.

Stephanie

Number 1 Place to Visit in Germany!….and Other Things!

Hey everyone! Finals are upon us… so brace yourself for long nights, short coffee breaks, and plenty of tears. I left you guys off last time on a total cliffhanger trying to figure out what my number 1 travel destination in Germany is! Well, the time has come. My number 1 destination in Germany is, you guesed it.

1. Berlin 

Berlin- Brandenburg Gate

Berlin- Brandenburg Gate

Now I know there are some people out there that disagree with me who have been to Germany and that is fine, however from my experiences, time spent there, and interactions with the people of Berlin, this was a no brainer. Our group spent 5 days in Berlin, and it was still no where near enough time to do everything there. You could spend a year of your life visitng every museum in Berlin and that probably still would not be enough. From the original settlers of Berlin to World War I, WWII, East and West Berlin, The Wall, anything you could imagine, Berlin has a museum for it. This was also where I had some of the best food on our trip as well. There was a specific restaurant that specializes in Berlin dishes and it was fantastic! Unfortunately I do not recall the name of it, I just know the taste of the delicious food our group devoured. The number of monuments in Berlin are astronomical. From the Brandenburg Gate to Victory Circle to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, there is something always to be seen in Berlin. This is why I chose Berlin as the number one destination to visit. The amount of things one can do there is endless, and tie that in with great food, and friendly people and you got a number 1 city.

Some places outside of Germany I would recomend visiting are:

Stockholm, Sweden

ABBA The Museum

ABBA The Museum

Stockholm was home to my favorite museum, The ABBA Museum. Also some great fish and chips as well. I would recomend going in the summer months of June and July however because it can still be quite cold in the spring months.

Florence, Italy

Beautiful Florence

Beautiful Florence

Florence was amazing and I know I speak for myself and everyone else in our group when I say I want to visit again. Florence is a great place for a weekend excursion to get a way for a while and take in the beautiful sights. The only thing you have to watch out for is that some restaurants may charge you a sitting fee. Yes they charge you money just to sit down so make sure you have enough cash before going and purchasing your apple juice and PB and J.

Rome, Italy

Colosseum

Colosseum

Rome was a lot of fun and I wish we could have stayed longer! Plenty of things to do and see! From walking through the Roman Forum or taking a quick hop up to Vadican City, there is plenty to do! Be prepared to bring your walking shoes however. Our group walked 29 miles in just the 2 days we were there. Needless to say, I lost 22 lbs by just drinking Slim Fast and visitng Rome in 2 days. But in all reality, it was an amazing place with history all around you!

I could go on and on, however if you come to Europe, don’t just take my advice, take your own! Find what you want to see most and do it! Make it your trip!

In only 4 days I will be coming back home to Valpo with the rest of the R-95 group and starting our summer breaks! This semester went by fast, but that just means we had fun doing it!

Tune in Monday where I give a sending off post since it will be my last. Until then people, good luck on finals and believe in yourself! Till later everybody, this is Austin P signing off!

Along the Cam, Down the Backs

Director Ringenberg took us on our highly-anticipated punting class trip!  It was a beautiful, warm spring (summer?) day.  Our guide, who was originally from Romania, gave us a brief history of the buildings and colleges as we punted down the river.  Many of the buildings date back to the 13th and 14th centuries!  It was a great time and Brendan and I both learned how to punt!  Apart from running our punt through two willow trees and crashing into a bridge, I think I did alright!

 

Cambridge, England

Cambridge, England

Cambridge, England  Left to Right:  (Emily P., Brendan, Sarah, Stephanie)

Cambridge, England
Left to Right: (Emily P., Brendan, Sarah, Stephanie)

Cambridge, England

Cambridge, England

Mathematical Bridge, Queen's College, Cambridge, England

Mathematical Bridge, Queen’s College, Cambridge, England

Cambridge, England

Cambridge, England

Last Days in London

London is an amazing city. There are so many things to do and places to see. Some people say that if you get bored in London, that means you’re bored with life, just because there’s so much to explore. I could never get tired of London. Even now, after living her for almost nine months, there is still a list of things that I haven’t seen yet that I want to see.

Greenwich, London

Greenwich, London

On a sunny Saturday, I attempted to cross some of these things off my list. Brendan and I headed to London for the afternoon. Our first stop was Greenwich to see the Queen’s Palace and the astronomy tower where the Prime Meridian is. It was a gorgeous day outside, so the walk up to the astronomy tower didn’t seem so bad. We sat up on top of the hill for awhile, talked, and looked out over London.

The Monument at Trafalgar Square

The Monument at Trafalgar Square

Our next stop was Trafalgar Square. I have been to London dozens of times, but believe it or not, I had never stopped and walked around Trafalgar Square before. We took some time and walked around the lion statues before stepping inside the National Gallery. Our art professor had recommended going into an art museum and staring at a piece of art for ten minutes, and then leave. The purpose is to try and find a piece of art that speaks to us, and see what we observe. We decided to try it, and only spent a few minutes in the National Gallery, looking for art that spoke to us. For me, any painting that has the ocean or water of some kind is something I gravitate to.

MI6

MI6

London from MI6

London from MI6

From Trafalgar Square, we walked down to Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey. Then we walked along the river to see MI6. Brendan and I are both fans of James Bond, and seeing MI6 was pretty cool. Obviously, we couldn’t go in, because it’s so heavily guarded and has lots of barbed wire around it. We just enjoyed seeing the building.

Regent's Park

Regent’s Park

We finished our day with a trip to see 221B Baker Street and a walk through Regent’s Park. 221B Baker street was just a door with a sign referencing Sherlock Holmes, but it was still cool to see where he was written to have lived. We walked through Regent’s Park near sunset, so it was glowing in the light, and it was so pretty.

There are still more things that I want to do in London, but this was a start at completing my list. I had a lot of fun walking around with Brendan, and I can’t wait to go back to London for one final time before I leave in May!

Another London Trip

As some of my friends were off on the continent of Europe, I decided to stay back and go to London.  I just love the city so much.  I saw my favorite places and I even swam in the London Olympic Pool!

London, England

London, England

London, England

London, England

St. James Park, London

St. James Park, London

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace, London

London Olympic Aquatic Centre - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London Olympic Aquatic Centre – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London Olympic Aquatic Centre - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London Olympic Aquatic Centre – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London Olympic Aquatic Centre - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

London Olympic Aquatic Centre – Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

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