The plan of the Parisian metro is insane. Undeniably the craziest thing I've ever seen. But remarkably effective...
During the day:
I stood on the metro yesterday, as it was packed. Per usual. A woman was hellbent on staring at my leg and finally after a few minutes leans over and asks me what my tattoo says. I explain to her that its a poem by an author she probably won't know and she insists that I tell her more about it. After trying to dodge this bullet with words, picture this: she gets down on hands and knees and reads it. Then asks me to translate it for her. Sorry but I don't remember the words for sighing or longing, but I improvise. Definitely one of the weirdest things thus far to happen to me.
But at night:
...continue reading "Metros and Taxis. Ugg."
This advice was given to me by an employee of the Egyptian Museum as I was attempting to cross a busy street downtown. I have been getting around Cairo either on foot or in a cab. Navigating the city requires vigilance, speed, and patience. Sidewalks cease to exist, only to re-emerge a block later. Occasionally trucks are parked on them. Cars will always honk obligingly, but rarely slow down. It is usually easy to catch a cab, and it has been great for practicing my colloquial Egyptian. Boys take the front seat and girls pile in the back. I’ve been tempted to hang my head out the window like an excited puppy, the better to enjoy the breeze, but don’t for fear of decapitation by the motorcycles that dart between the gaps in traffic.
...continue reading "“Close your eyes, say a prayer, and run.”"
For the next two and a half weeks I will be trekking through the Tsum Valley, along the Northern Border of Nepal. Featuring the famed Mt. Manaslu, we are headed into this remote valley in order to do research on the Tibetan(iod) peoples there. Only recently made accessible to a group of our size by the government, there are no "proper roads" (as in motorable) into Tsum from Nepal, and only one from China. Instead, after a ten hour car ride to the bordering state, we will have a six day trek into the valley, three days of homestays in remote villages, and a five day hike out. That's seventeen days, eleven of which will be spent hiking, some for an estimated six hours a day, which for me, means more. I would say I'm more outdoorsy than most of my D.C. friends, but that mostly just requires having pitched a tent at any time in your life. Compared to my Colorado friends... well I have other interests. In vague preparation I camped out a night with friends before hiking a 14'nr (Mt. Bierstadt, elevation 14,065 ft, and named after a painter, so I could tell art history stories the whole way up). But I'm concerned. I've already asked our house manager Rinzi to bring an extra donkey along to carry me up the mountain, and despite his laughed agreement, I think I will be alone on this one. Well, alone with twenty other students, nine program staff, and a large group of sherpas doing the actual heavy lifting and camp setting. So, alone like the Tim Curry (King Arthur) song in Spamalot, mostly just in self despair.
...continue reading "Kathmandu Valley"
One of the best things about Singapore is its public transit. One can literally get from one end of Singapore to the other within the time frame of an hour and a half to two hours. The public transit system here is referred to as the MRT, and to use it, you must have an EZ-Link card (identical to a SmarTrip). There are four basic lines: the Circle line (this is the line that contains the stop for NUS called Kent Ridge) , the Northeast Line (this line has Chinatown and Little India on it), the North-South Line (this line contains a major shopping district called Orchard Road, as well as "downtown" Singapore, known as Marina Bay), and finally, the East-West Line (this line contains mainly residential areas, as well as one of the largest street markets for shopping). You may only have a minimum balance of 3 Singapore dollars (SGD) before the system forces you to add a minimum of $10 SGD; traveling on the MRT usually costs anywhere from $1-$2 SGD one way.
...continue reading "Singapore’s Public Transit System"
Traveling by road in Nepal is not for the light of heart , but mostly it's not for anyone prone to motion sickness, acrophobia, or concerned about a head on collision in cars that have mysteriously been stripped of all the padding from their frames. Barring such concerns its easy to enjoy the jolts and jarrs of the rough road and the scenic views provided by steep drop-offs overlooking the valley. While this had a number of the students clutching the stripped frame of the land rovers in which we rode up to Namo Buddha, the professional drivers here are probably just as skilled as any Nascar driver, and collisions are incredibly rare despite the harsh road conditions.
...continue reading "Namo Buddha, Outside the Kathmandu Valley"
Le Marais. An ode to the hipster bible. Bobo. The word for hipster. I spent the day wandering down the narrow crowded streets, jumping from one vintage store to the other. This district is known for Jews and gays and may be my favorite place I've visited thus far. And simultaneously my least favorite place because of one fact: there is nothing I don't like in Le Marais and this is a heavy burden for my wallet.
...continue reading "Shopaholics Anonymous"
We in the U.S. are lucky to live in a country that enjoys freedom of speech and of the press. Anyone can write an article or make a video, and then turn it loose onto the internet. Unfortunately, this means that lots of ignorant, hateful, or simply stupid material makes its way around the world, such as the anti-Islam movie that has inflamed ill-will across the Middle East.
...continue reading "Post-Protest"
“Sometimes it’s the small things in life.” Spain continues to reaffirm this for me twofold. One of my favorite experiences this week has been making a new friend close to home (in Madrid). On the route to my flat, there are quite a few little shops, restaurants, and bakeries. Last week I decided to bring home some sweets from a pastelería around the corner. As I decided which cookies, or galletas, I was going to take home, the girl who worked there kindly guided me through chocolates and the crèmes. We struck up a conversation about where we were from and whether she lived nearby, and I left the store feeling like I knew one more friendly face in my neighborhood. A couple of days later, I saw her working and stepped in to say hello. Luz told me her name and that she was from Paraguay and we decided to meet up to get some coffee. This simple gesture of making plans with a new friend in Spain on my own was one of the highlights of my week when it comes to engaging more with Spanish people.
...continue reading "Concerning Cookies and Friends"
Mikhail, my host dad, regularly inundates me with books about Petersburg and Russian culture. I’ve only been in Russia for twelve days and I’ve already fifteen books sitting on my desk. Each book outlines hundreds of topics, some of which include city and state history, national cuisines and how to prepare them, detailed backgrounds of ethnic minorities, and the richness of Russian visual arts and culture, namely ballet, opera, literature, and paintings. Mikhail urges me to scan through these books and highlight my favorite topics so that he can later inform me where I can go in St. Petersburg to experience these matters first-hand.
...continue reading "Russian Study Abroad Dilemma: How to Have It All"
Somewhere in the Northeast corner of Argentina, the country kisses the corners of both Brazil and Paraguay right along the Paranáriver. The river continues South for 14 miles until it splits off in o the Iguazú river, dividing Brazil and Argentina and flows between these two countries. Before continuing East, the water cascades more than 250ft down the breathtaking Iguazu Falls.
...continue reading "Un Viaje: Cataratas del Iguazú"