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By msotomayor12

There are a few cultural art forms that are exclusively unique to Spanish culture. The first that could come to mind are the bullfights, in which a torero and a bull literally fight to the death. If hair-raising death matches aren’t your thing, seeing a Zarzuela at a local theatre can easily soothe your nerves. However, if you want to really indulge in the culture and be transported into performance heaven, it is imperative to see a flamenco show.

After dancing every style imaginable for sixteen years, it is impossible to not feel nostalgic about my favorite past time. My blood naturally pulses to the beat of a good tune, whether it is a hip-hop, classical, or modern song. So when I heard that the GW Madrid program offered a Flamenco class, I had to sign up.

For over a month I have been taking classes at Casa Patas, one of Spain’s most prized dancing schools. Every Monday and Wednesday I strap on my black Mary Jane heels and stomp away to the rhythm of different flamenco palos, or styles.

The beauty of flamenco is that it incorporates my three favorite dancing styles: ballet, tap, and salsa. I know it sounds impossible for these completely different styles to blend, but they fuse together perfectly. The ballet is seen in the core and arms of the flamenco’s body. Her upper body barely moves, while her feet are stomping away in similar tap steps. A little bit of salsa is present in the dancer’s hip sways, but even those moves are all in control.

Flamenco is not just the dancer performing, it also includes a guitarist, cantor, and several others who hold the beat by clapping their palmas, palms, together. A performance does not even have to include a dancer at all. What defines flamenco are the range of styles within the genre. Depending on the rhythm, the cantor can sing songs of sorrow or happiness and the dancer exudes that emotion.

For that reason, flamenco takes your breath away when you watch it. It’s a fusion of different artistic elements coming together to present an amazing cultural experience. If you ever find yourself in Spain, find the nearest tablon (flamenco stage), order some wine, and sit back and indulge in a unique visual and auditory experience.

By iobrien1093

I’ve been working at New Chapter Foundation for the last three weeks, splitting my time between the organization’s new office building and the community center in Phumlani Village. Initially, I thought I would spend my time in the village’s community center tutoring children or assisting with the after-school homework club, but I quickly realized on my first day of volunteering that international students are essential in the development of most of New Chapter’s programs, as it is such a young organization lacking the means to hire many employees.

At the moment, I’m working with two other volunteers from CIEE on about three different programs that are all in their initial stages of development. The first is a Youth Advice Center, which aims to provide the youth of Phumlani, as well as drop-outs and students from local high schools, with the resources, computer skills training, and scholarship information to enable them to achieve their educational and career aspirations. The problem is that New Chapter is presently without Internet connection or a phone line, so we can’t even begin recruiting youth to the office without first fundraising at least $1,000 dollars for Telekom Service. Once we have the money, trained volunteers will deliver workshops to the participants. We’ve spent the last week creating and sharing an Indiegogo fundraising webpage for New Chapter that will hopefully draw in the funds to kickoff the advice center by the end of March.

Our second project is an art program that will target the mothers of Phumlani Village, many of whom are unemployed and spend their days at home with the children. The project is meant to provide these mothers with their own income by asking them to create art and jewelry from buttons that will be donated from local retail stores. We have already received about 8 boxes of buttons and elastic from a single retailer. Last week, we spoke to one of the head “Mamas” of the village, asking her to spread the word to other Mamas who might be interested in participating. Although she was interested in working with New Chapter, Mama was extremely skeptical as to whether the designs would actually sell and whether New Chapter would be as invested in marketing the project as the Mamas would be in creating the pieces. From our conversation it was clear that these women have been promised things before that they have never actually received. It’s difficult to reassure these women without having experience with this type of project. At this point there’s no concrete way to convince them that it will be successful.

The third project will be the After School Club at the Phumlani Community Center. I had thought when I started working at New Chapter that the After School Club was an organized, year round, five days a week program, but I discovered last week that it actually occurs once a week and only when international volunteers are available to run it. I was frustrated by this fact, since the After School Club was a major part of the reason why I chose to work at New Chapter in the first place. I had planned for the program to be the foundation of my capstone/independent research project.  It felt like there were too many projects depending on volunteers and that I was being assigned my capstone project even if I had no experience or understanding of how to go about developing it. It was a very overwhelming week, but when we opened the after school club for the afternoon last Friday it was actually very successful. We haven’t yet set up a homework club, as of now it’s just drawing and soccer games, but the kids are so excited to have somewhere to go and something to do after school other than walk the streets.

After leaving Phumlani that day, I met with my Service Learning advisor to sort out my mess of thoughts into a set of organized goals. She helped me realize that I’m not alone in this service project and that I’m not expected to know how to set up these programs by myself. She directed me find a project in New Chapter that I would really enjoy working on for the next three months even if wasn't something that the director of New Chapter had initially planned for me. It was a relief to have someone know my worries and to have her provide me with resources and connections.  I decided that I would like to create a Reading Partners program for my cap stone project where I will match high school students from one of the high schools affiliated with CIEE with a Xhosa or Afrikaans speaking child from Phumlani.

It’s been a busy few weeks, with some bumps in the road, but I finally feel like I’m able to visualize what the next three months will look like.


By catrionaschwartz

There is a poem by Elizabeth Bishop called “One Art,” and the repeated line in the poem is “The art of losing isn’t hard to master.” This weekend I lost a necklace I’ve had for twelve, nearly thirteen years and that line has been circling through my brain ever since. It was (is) a charm necklace, though it didn’t start out as such. At first it was just a necklace with a crown on it, a souvenir from the Tower of London, bought during my first trip out of the country when I was eight. I wore it constantly, I swear I wore it until it wore itself a groove in my neck.  Over the years my parents gave me charms to add to it—a music note, a cat, a heart, an owl, one of my grandmother’s old subway tokens—it became my lucky necklace.

When we went to visit the ruins and the beach in Ostia this past Saturday, I almost didn’t wear it, but then I saw it curled up on my desk and I put it on with only the briefest of thoughts (“Perfect.”). It was warm at Ostia Antica—an archaeological site outside of Rome, filled with ruins of a former port city—and I still had the necklace, hung carefully (precariously) around my neck. When we got closer to the beach it was breezier, cooler, so I put on my scarf and then my jacket. It wasn’t until I got home much later that night, when I took off my jacket and my scarf, that I felt the nakedness around my neck; that I realized the necklace was gone.

It was with a sort of grim, rising hysteria that I walked back to the bus station, but there was too much ground to cover and it was too dark to fully retrace my steps. We’d taken two buses and two trains to get to the beach alone, it was a good hour and half away from our house and the sun had set. My necklace, the one I’d had for nearly thirteen years—that I wore to auditions, to the SATs, to prom, to the grocery store, to class, at home with my cat—it was gone.

It was so silly, this little amalgamation of silver and gold and alloys had taken on a sort of sentience in my mind, melding itself just the slightest bit into my perception of self. And in a single afternoon, an infinitesimal fraction of its existence, it was gone.

But the art of losing isn’t hard to master.

And though that wasn’t really the point of the poem at all, even if it was just the words ringing in my ears along with the sadness, I know that although I will miss it, this wasn’t such a disaster. I didn’t lose farther or faster, not a house, not a city, not a realm, and most importantly, most essentially, most vitally not a “you.”

And that is why I know that losing my necklace—it wasn’t (Write it!) a disaster.

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

By maxikaplan

It is beginning to feel unreal that this is my second to last week of class at LSE. I’m not anticipating my six week study period here will be too adventurous, especially considering I have to take my exams in New York. What this means is that I have to really make the most of the next few weeks, because before I know it I will be studying for 12 hours a day. This sounds all gloom and doom, but it could be worse—a few of my friends at other schools have their grades at LSE counting towards their GPA, while I only receive a pass or fail. With that in mind, it looks like next week will be a night out on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the week after I am hitchhiking to Croatia. So I suppose that I cannot complain too much.

photo 1I know that a rant about the greatness of the city of London is a surefire way to deter all readers immediately, but bear with me quickly. Today my friend David and I took a trip to Regents Park, which is North of my neighborhood (Holborn) and only about a 25-minute walk. I think for the first time in my history of blog writing that I will actually attach a photo to this post because the beauty of this park is indescribable. It felt as though I was no longer in the city of London, because everywhere we turned there was either another waterfall somewhere, or another pond where you can go paddle boating. I haven’t taken the time to look into why yet, but every park in London has a wide array of different species of birds, each one more beautiful than the next. They have the usual mallard duck and annoying pigeons, but the swans and other exotic birds add the perfect touch. Of all the people in the park, I would say half were probably sleeping in fields today because the weather was impeccable. In a city where it typically rains 6 days out of 7 a week, the locals definitely make the most of the sun.

In many ways, London reminds me of New York, not just because each are major developed cities, but because of their geography. Last weekend we took a trip to Chelsea and Kensington, which one could say is the equivalent to the Upper West Side of New York, and the neighborhood had an entirely different smell and feel than mine does. I mentioned in my last post that I would be spending significantly more time exploring the city than I have previously, and I suppose that that explains the contents of this blog quite well. I may miss a blog post while I am traveling to Croatia and then to Switzerland, but I will do my best to find a computer and type something out! I hope you enjoy the photos I’ll try to 2

By numzzz123


A Bedouin man was in the desert with his camel. At night, he was going to sleep and did not tie his camel. When asked why he didn’t, he said that he trusted God to keep his camel there the next day. When he woke up the next day, it wasn’t.

Moral of the story? Trust God, but always tie your camel.     This is a hadith, a prophetic saying, known by many in the Middle East.

Going into the Middle East, I was hopeful that I would be able to do in country networking and locate a volunteer opportunity while there. However, before I left the USA, I made sure to tie my camel. In other words, although I trusted God, I made sure to put in the effort to do research about current efforts in the Middle East, rather than just hoping something would present itself to me while I was there.

It was so easy to dream up all of the possibilities from my bubble in America, but I knew the realities of the situation would be much different once I arrived in the country, and I wanted to be prepared. I was lucky enough that one of my cousins in America married a Jordanian, so she was able to guide me in the right direction and give me an idea of the realities before I arrived in country. I realized early on in the process that although I had some smaller research goals I wanted to tackle on my own, there would be many obstacles to entering into any of the refugee camps. I had to find a way around this, and that was to gain access by being part of a larger organization. I looked up a number of multi national organizations that were active around Amman and in Zaatari, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.  These included UNHCR, UNICEF, Mercy Corps and more. I also looked into smaller NGOs that were local, because working in a smaller organization would provide me with a completely different experience than working in a large one.

While I was doing my searching, I kept coming across a name. This person was actively doing work with Syrian Refugees all over the region, including in Jordan. After doing some more research, I realized he worked for CRDC – The Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. I found an email address online and decided to take the chance and send an email to see if there was an opportunity to work with them while abroad.  At this point, I had nothing to lose...and a lot to gain.

I ended up getting a response. They wanted to meet with me in Amman. When I arrived in Amman, I met up with two employees of CRDC. As we began talking, I found out that they were spearheading a project called Project Amal ou Salam. It was a week long camp for Syrian Refugee children, which was to be held in March. This seemed exactly like the hands on opportunity I was looking for, and I immediately jumped on board.

Project Amal ou Salam was founded in Summer 2013. The first camp was held for Syrian Refugee children in Turkey, and it was a success. The second camp was going to be held in Jordan, on the outskirts of Zaatari. Most of the aid that is sent to the refugees goes into one of the camps. Within the camp, there are many resources for children, including activities, sports, schools, etc. However, there are many Syrian refugee towns right outside of Zaatari, who live in meager conditions and receive no aid at all. This is where the Camp directors felt the most impact could be left. This camp would be bigger than before, bringing in 250 different Syrian children a day, and held in two different locations throughout the week. The purpose of the camp is to bring empowerment to these children who have grown up in war, to give them hope and remind them that they are the future of Syria.

The camp has different stations for art, music, photography, dealing with trauma, and much more. It brings in volunteers from countries around the world. This is only the second of its kind, with the other one operating in Turkey. I have been assigned as an intern of CRDC for this project. I am working directly with the Camp director in dealing with the logistics of this camp. Over the next few weeks leading up to the camp, I will be doing hands on work including doing site visits for the camp, working closely with the volunteers arriving from the country, working out details of supplies and day to day issues, and much more. On the actual days of the camp, I will be a team leader. I will have a different group of 50 Syrian refugee children assigned to me each day and will be in charge of them for the whole day. I am really excited and nervous at the same time. This is more than anything I could have dreamed of. Not only will I be working with such inspiring and ambitious people who will be running the camp, but I will have a rare opportunity to interact with the children of this conflict which is just a news story for so many around the world. I will be taking pictures and am excited to let you know how it goes.

By zamorse

I committed a cultural faux pas, it's true.

The University of Haifa is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city, and to get most places in the city like the shouk (market), malls, restaurants, beach, it is necessary to take a bus. When I first got to the University, I didn't know how much I would be taking the bus, and thus I elected not to get what's called a "Rav Kav" when I had the opportunity to the first week of school. A rav kav is essentially like a smart trip in D.C and is for frequent travelers on the city's bus system.

I elected not to get one because I didn't know how much I would be taking the bus, and whether or not it would be worth it financially. I didn't think I would be taking the bus enough to make it financially feasible. That was about as far from the truth as possible.

I take the bus all the time, almost every day. Obtaining a rav kav requires a trip down to the central bus station, showing them your passport, and getting a special paper from the International School to show that you are an international student.

And after I realized my mistake of not getting a rav kav the first week of classes, it took me almost two months to obtain the necessary paperwork and go all the way to the central bus station to get one.

Now that I have one, I don't have to try and find 6.90 sheckles in my wallet every time I ride the bus, I can just swipe my card....more like a local.

By billienkatz

1. Pan con Tomate - this simple dish is simply toasted bread with a tomato spread, but it is one of the foods that has stood out the most throughout my time in Barcelona. My first experience with this dish was when my roommate and I wandered into a restaurant around the corner from our apartment for our first Spanish meal just a few hours after stepping off the plane and where we were jet lagged out of our minds. This (for some reason) is a staple on most restaurant menus and a definite 'must order' appetizer.

2. Paella - duh. Paella is a staple of Spanish meals in general; however, you truly don't understand how incredible it is until you actually eat it in Spain. Barcelona, specifically, has really amazing Paella because it is a port city and all of the seafood used is completely fresh. The only downside for someone like me who tries to view my food as just food and nothing more, the fact that the Spanish keep the heads on all of their seafood ruins a bit of the meal for me.

3. Cava - while Cava is certainly not a food group, it is very possible to argue that since it is an alcoholic drink, that it is essential to the Spanish diet. This isn't to say that everyone in Spain drinks copious amounts, but having a few beers or glasses of wine/cava/sangria at any point in the day is totally normal. I even saw a 4 year old playing with a not totally empty beer bottle once...Anyway, back to Cava! Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine, which is grown and produced in the Catalonia region. Essentially, Cava is to Spain, what Champagne is to France.

4. Fresh Juice - I am a fruit fanatic, and the concept of fresh-squeezed natural juices that are abundant in Barcelona is potentially one of my favorite things about studying abroad here. There are two very distinct types of juice in Barcelona. The first, is very common and from a giant industrial sized juicer that is found in every restaurant, cafe, and little shop you walk into. The second, and my definite favorite, is the 1€ juice available at La Boqueria (the big open market). The IES center where I take my classes is about a 5 minute walk down Las Rambles to the Boqueria, and I often find myself taking juice breaks because it's just that good.

5. Chocolate con Churros - there isn't enough to say about this dessert, except for the fact that it is amazing, fattening, and may result in a bit of self-loathing if you eat one too many, but it is such a worth it while visiting and more importantly, eating in Spain!

By Dominique Bonessi

I have a confession to make…or maybe a few confessions.

  1. So apparently getting out of a cab from the driver’s side is not allowed.  After trying for a solid 2 minutes to open the door on the driver’s side, my roommate and the driver both looked at me and corrected my error.
  2. Going out with wet hair here, is a big no-no.   People in Amman, especially young adults attending the University of Jordan take pride in their appearance and going out with wet hair no matter how tired you are to dry it is not allowed.  So I will not start changing my habits of drying my hair in the morning, but I will be reminded not to leave it down.
  3. The culture here tends to keep women and men--even if they are the same family—in separate rooms.   I was sitting in the kitchen talking to my roommate and my host mother as my host dad was on the enclosed porch with a friend.  I said goodnight to my host mom and my roommate and they looked at me with slanted faces and told me I have to wait till my host dad was finished with his friend before I could walk past them to go to bed.

I am sure that there will be plenty of other incidents. I’ll keep you posted!

By juliaraewagner

After some 30+ hours of travel and 4 flights, IHP Cities has arrived in Dakar, Senegal! We've spent the past week getting acquainted with out new city, meeting the people, seeing the sites, and tasting this country's delicious food.

With warm weather, fresh air, and a constant, refreshing sea breeze, there's a lot to love about Dakar, but my favorite element so far has been the Senegalese attention to people. One of the first things our country coordinator told us is that Senegal has a people-centric, people-first culture, and that has been continuously reinforced in the classroom and my home-stay.

This week, we've learned how to greet people we meet, an act that is extremely important here. To not greet a person is to not acknowledge his humanity and so to ask someone to do something for you without greeting him first is one of the biggest offenses in the book. That must be why the Senegalese greet in not one, not two, but three different languages before getting down to what they wanted to discuss. So in the past week, I've learned how to say, "Hey, how are you?" in Arabic, French, and Wolof, the most prominent ethnic language.

Sometimes, this attention to the person means that things take longer than they would in our time-centric Western society. People are often late to meetings because they stopped to talk to a friend on the sidewalk or were busy checking in on their family. Our Senegalese country facilitator has joked that this loose attention to time is called WAIT, or West African Internal Time. Time here is all about giving people the time of day.

In my home-stay  I've also seen manifestations of the people-centric culture. Random family members and neighbors are constantly wandering into each other's homes and spending the night or the afternoon. Each house is home to a large extended family. I'm pretty sure that my household consists of about 12 people from three generations, though I'm still very unclear of who actually lives here and who simply spends their time here. Even more confusing is who is the child of whom and who is married to whom. The whole family gathers around the same tray for dinner every night, but we always seem to be adding new members.

Speaking of food, my home-stay roommate and I helped the women of the family prepare a huge feast today for their monthly family meeting.  Every month, all of the people of the same age within the family meet to talk and spend time together. Our house, which is usually bustling with about 20 people at any given time had about 40 people this afternoon. We spent the whole afternoon cooking for the event, but cleanup was super easy with so many hands to help out!

By anishag22

My trip to Paris to visit my best friend last weekend was absolutely amazing. We ate the most incredible food (Nutella crepes? Check. Three course fondue? Check.) and visited all the major sites like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Locks of Love Bridge.

As soon as I got back from Paris, I set to work on my two major essays due this coming week. I decided to start with my politics essay about the EU because it seemed the most threatening. As I realized that this assignment is a legitimate research paper, I started to get stressed. It’s understandable - I’ve never had anything graded in this country before.

At GW, I know what to expect and how much effort I need to put in to get my desired grade on the assignment. Obviously I have written essays of this level of difficulty before, but I just don’t know how my work will be assessed. I went to my professor’s office hours and explained my apprehension, and she was extremely helpful. She told me not to worry too much about it and to just keep my arguments clear and back them up with evidence. I’m sticking to that plan, and hopefully it will pay off.

Ironically, my fear of being assessed in another country is broadening my perspective on the international academic system.  My classes here at the University of Bristol have been intellectually stimulating and relevant to my studies back home. I’m so glad I took the European Union class because I’ve been able to get an insider’s perspective to how the UK views the EU. I never quite understood the extent of Euroskepticism that exists in this country before coming here. The academic challenges I’ve faced in Bristol thus far have undoubtedly been worth it – I’m learning more and expanding my worldview one day at a time!

Until next time –

Xx, Anisha