Saturday, March 26, 2011

So I am actually trying this time!!

Before I start writing, I should say that this blog and entire blog site is blocked in Turkey by the government (type "Bu siteye erişim mahkeme kararıyla engellenmiştir" into translate to find out exactly what appeared on my screen). It is thanks to a proxy work around that I can write now (the same one that tricks my IP address into being in Baltimore, thanks Hopkins, so I can watch Netflix and Hulu too!).

Ok so I am currently in Istanbul, Turkey on the European side. It is awesome and very different from what I expected. We are staying in old town but still have to take the tram to get everywhere which is fine since its like a dollar each way which is so cheap!! We got here Thursday afternoon and will be here until Monday afternoon. Now while I would love to come on my own, this is actually part of an optional class trip since we are studying middle eastern politics and Turkey is a unique situation given it is only one of two "democracies" in the region (besides that whole pesky free speech element as described above) with the other democracy being Israel. Turkey is a secular islamic country which makes it easier for westerners to comprehend and explore in my opinion. Most people in the city do not wear head scarves and even dress very western so we fit right in (other than that whole not speaking a word of Turkish and trust me, I've tried).

The first day we got here, we settled in and then went around exploring. This trip is very different from the traveling seminar at the start since the schedule is really loose and flexible. The professors are also a lot more relaxed and making jokes. I think this is due to a couple of things. Firstly, we are all fairly comfortable with them by now since it has been 2 or 3 months. Also, this is an optional trip that we chose to come on so while there are some academic elements, there are also a lot of fun things to do. We took the tram down to the Spice market and walked along the river. While we did have a small little academic introduction to the city, we also stopped and did one of professor Rasckas favorite things, bought fish sandwiches off of the boats. When I say fish sandwiches, I really mean that they caught the fish in the Bosphorus in the morning, cut it in half and grill it on a boat and put it in between two sides of a baguette with onions and lettuce and then sold it. This means it still had some skin, bones, scales, etc. You are supposed to add lemon sauce and salt of course too once you buy it. This thing was only 4 lire (like 2 euros or so or 2.50 dollars). Once you get over the small bones and scales, it was really good!! I know it is unlike me to eat something like this but I really am becoming more adventurous in my eating!!! Every single person in our group (17 student and 2 professors) bought one of the sandwiches which was really cool because usually one person is too scared. We all loved it! I also of course bought some chestnuts which were good but since the Turkish seem obsessed with making their stands look pretty, they were a little cold from sitting out. I swear that they are all OCD or something because every food stand has some weird organization system. Anywho, we went back towards the spice market and the professors gave us an imprompto 20 minute break to explore the start of the spice market so we could get a taste before returning later. It was funny to explore the market with the professors and each buy different things to share like baklava, turkish delight, various nuts, etc. After that we went into a mosque right there next to the market and just looked around. I must say, when I chose to study abroad in France for the semester, I did imagine myself visiting more mosques than churches! So far, I think I have been to at least 3 or 4 active mosques. That night we just kind of walked around and ate dinner and called it an early night since we had been traveling since 4 am our time thanks to the bus to Frankfurt for our flight. A couple friends and I did buy this creme puff cake covered in this fudge stuff with hazelnuts and finished the night out eating that while watching Sleepless in Seattle at the hotel.

Day two was a lot of fun too but exhausting. We started out at the Blue Mosque which is only called the blue mosque in english and something completely different in Turkish. I have kind of gotten used to this whole removing my shoes and covering my head business, its kinda nice and reminds you that you are in a special place. On our way to the next location, we stopped randomly for Apple Tea (yummy!) and hung out for a while. After that we walked over to the funicular and took it up to Gallatia (I think thats how you spell it) and walked down the very European Street where we grabbed lunch and continued on to Taksim Square where we took another funicular down and walked to the Syracuse Istanbul center at a local university. There we had two lectures about Turkish politics which were actually pretty interesting. After that we just kind of walked around for the rest of the evening.

Today we started out at Hagia Sofia which is gorgeous. You can really seem the transformation from Orthodox Church to Mosque to Museum. the pictures don't even do it justice!! After that we went to the Topkapi Palace which is very different from European Palaces. Ottoman architecture, artwork and court are fascinating!! We also visited the Harem :). After that we went and had lunch (chickpeas, beef and potatoes and baklava, yummy!!!). We continued onto the bazaars which were a lot of fun!! I bought a bunch of stuff (food and non-food).

Now I am excited for the next two days which are filled with walking, tea and exploring of the Asian side of the city. I will update more later!!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Make-Up Entry #4: General ‘Bourg

Ok so make-up entry on the general situation here in the ‘Bourg. Life is pretty normal here. Midterms are over thank goodness and my internship is progressing. I really am starting to feel at home and like I know where things are. I even went to a chocolate tasting!!! There is probably a lot more to write but I am blanking at the moment. Sidenote though, I promise more postcards are coming, I just have to mail them!!!! Next entry will be about Istanbul where I will next weekend!!

Make-Up Entry #3: Family/Disney

Ok so this past week my family was here visiting me, minus Matthew since he had minor leg surgery. It was really nice to see them and show them around my new temporary hometown of Strasbourg. It was a Sunday which meant everything was closed but I took them all over the city and even to meet my host mommy. On Monday I took them to my school and showed them all over it before they had to catch their train to Paris and my two midterms. My friend Eliza and I went up Friday night to Paris to meet them at Disneyland Paris (Bobby’s choice of course!) only to find that Bobby and my dad had returned home early due to some interesting events back home. It turned out to be ok though since we had a girls weekend of Eliza, my mommy and I at Disney. We had a great time, even going as far as to sport the Minnie and Mickey ears. Oddly enough though, all of the rides kept having technical difficulties making it hard to be able to ride anything! Oh well, still had fun. How can one not have fun with Mickey-shaped pizza and a Mickey-shaped brioche filled with nutella? Exactly. We even rented Ratatouille the movie that night since we were at Disney in France. ☺ Even though the weekend did not go as planned, it still turned out to be a lot of silly fun!!

Make-Up Entry #2: Spring Break

Ok now onto Make-up entry number 2, spring break. I am not sure why they even tried to call it Spring Break given it started in February (February 25) and ran through the beginning of March (March 6 – my 21st birthday!!!). The trip started out in Budapest with me, Thomas, Devron and Ari. Caitlin had a personal emergency and returned stateside but she joined us in Vienna and continued with us to Prague.

Travel to Budapest – interesting. Again, in our efforts to be thrifty, we took a bus for 14 hours instead of a train. It was not as bad as I thought it would be to be honest and we made it there alive.

The hostel in Budapest was actually pretty nice and the four of us had our own room. We did a lot of walking around both the Buda and Pest sides of the city which are really pretty. In addition we ate a lot of Gulash (yummy). One of the big things we did in Budapest was visit a very large and seriously gorgeous Synagogue near our hostel. I had never been in a Synagogue before so that made this even more interesting. There was also a memorial next door which we went to. So to start off this explanation, we walked past this synagogue every morning to go downtown and would look into this bizarrely and eerily beautiful garden which appeared to be a memorial garden to those who perished during the war in the ghetto since this was the Jewish section of the city. Once we entered the memorial, we read that this garden was on top of 25 mass graves of people who died in the ghetto. I almost there up right there and then because it was very unexpected. While it was upsetting, it was one of those things that (a) I should have not been as surprised by and (b) I think I needed to see to understand the situation a little better. Ok so on another related but happier topic, during our stay, we went to a hummus bar across the street which was amazing. Anyone who knows my love of hummus will understand. It was a giant plate of chickpeas, hummus, veggies and fresh bread. I was in heaven for this meal. Like everywhere else, we did a ridiculous amount of shopping.

Now onto Vienna. This was kind of our relax city and not spend as much money since it is absurdly expensive city. Our hostel was really cool and definitely catered towards to the young adult traveler. It had a nice setup and even a bar downstairs. We had a room for six people so once Caitlin arrived, there was only one random person in the room but she was kind of chill. We explored the area around Schoennbrunn Palace which has always been my favorite Palace in all of Europe. It is smaller and in my opinion prettier than most palaces plus it looks like a real house a opposed to a show piece. I guess as a child I also really liked the zoo in the backyard and the maze. After some walking of the grounds, we went up to the Gloriette for coffee and hot chocolate while looking around this truly gorgeous site. After that, we walked around downtown and went shopping. The next day we visited the ferris wheel and little mini amusement park thingy which was historical and whimsical. Other than that, we relaxed before leaving for Prague.

Last stop on Spring Break 2011 was Prague in the Czech Republic. Where to start, oh right, we got lost within 20 minutes of being there. After some heated arguments and many stops asking for directions, we found the hostel. It was supposedly highly rated online but alas, it was crap. After a day, Caitlins allergies were so bad and all of us so creeped out that her mom insisted we move to the Marriott. In the end, not a bad decision and again thank you. So other than that, we did a lot in Prague. The first day we (minus Ari who kinda did Prague on his own) went to the main square and walked around. Since it was the start of Karnival, there were little booths with ham on the square. You went up, said you wanted ham, they cut a slice, weighed it and you paid. I was scared at first but oh my gosh was it yummy!! We ended up doing that the second day too! We also walked around and tried to find Kafkas house which ended up being a kinda odd museum. We went into a Kafka bookshop and got some pretty cool stuff too. After all that, we walked over the Charles bridge and into s few smaller streets. For dinner we went to TGI Fridays since we wanted a taste of home and it was quick given Caitlin, Thomas and I were going to the ballet that night where we saw Swan Lake. It was my first time and it was gorgeous. The next day we walked over the bridge again and up to the castle which was gorgeous. We all went back and took a nap after that and met up with Ari because we were all exhausted. After dinner, the boys went out on a Pub Crawl while Caitlin and I had a girls night of light shopping, watching tv/movies, packing and the hotel bar. The next day we woke up and left to go back to the ‘Bourg.

So the trip home. This was another fine idea to save money and included a bus and three trains. One of the connections was only 19 minutes and had me terrified but we made it home on time and missed none of the connections. We arrived back in Strasbourg about 15 minutes before midnight on the 5th so by the time I got back to my house, I was 21! Nothing big though since being 21 here means nothing. I did celebrate with Caitlin and the guys in Vienna so it did not go completely unnoticed. Overall I would say it was a fun, culture filled break!

Make-Up Entry #1: Morocco

We (Eliza, Ari and I) went to Morocco at the start of February (11-13), which was a lot of fun! Since we only had a few days, we went to Marrakesh. We left Thursday afternoon from Strasbourg (from here on out called the ‘Bourg but don’t pronounce the g, will explain later). Rather than explain this in parts, I will explain all of the travel arrangements now. Since we are cheap college students and very resourceful, we found that if we flew out of Geneva at 6am on Friday and back into Charles de Gaulle on Sunday morning-ish, it would be the cheapest option. Downside, since we had to be in Geneva by 4am, we had to take a train the night before and the last one leaving the ‘Bourg to Basel with a connection to Geneva got us in at like 9:45-10pm the night before. What does this mean? Yes, we slept on the floor of the Geneva airport. Anyone of you who has travelled with me knows that this idea of camping out in an airport is not completely unfamiliar but still very odd. I have this to say, it was February, Switzerland, night and stone floors. We were very cold. Anyways, once we got on the plane we were lucky enough to get exit row (it was one of those no-assigned seats airlines, EasyJet). After a relatively relaxing plane ride, we landed in Marrakesh and went through passport control. We spent the entire time trying to find ways of ensuring Ari would get through because he is paranoid and Jewish. He thought that due to him being Jewish, they would arrest him or something. It’s a long story but this theme runs through the entire trip.

Next part of the trip, the hostel. In accordance with the whole finding cheap options, Ari found us a “lovely” backpackers hostel right near the city center form 8 euros a night (yes, that is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!!!!!! Euros….). At first we thought, ok this is quaint… but after a while it kinda got weird. First there was the terrace which had been advertised as a place to hang out, meet new friends, relax and drink tea. This was not the case, instead it was a roof-top terrace covered in laundry looking at other roofs covered in laundry. Next is the room, we made sure to get a room with only three beds so we had no randoms in there which would have been super awkward given Eliza and I are girls sharing a room with a guy and that is inappropriate under Sharia even in its mild forms. As a result, we created a backstory where Ari was married to Eliza who refused to change her last name and I was one of their sisters-in-law. Thank goodness we did not need to explain it because it got complicated. Anyways, the room had three beds but the forgot the sheets and we had to ask for them. When they came, I kinda wished they had not since they scared me. We also somehow locked ourselves in our room like six times. There was a slightly broken window up above Elizas bed and our light had only one working bulb. This place was sketch times 1000. I saved the best for last, the bathroom. We had a shower/toilet/sink combo next to our room. This was not a real toilet but rather a dirty hole in the ground with no paper. Upstairs they did have a real toilet but it leaked all the time and flooded the floor plus was always out of paper. There was also no soap at the sink. So, we still used that one but used tissues and hand sanitizer (I always come prepared!!). I feel I grew as a person as a result of this experience, kinda.

Next part is the market. One word, freaking awesome (ok fine two words). The square was full of food vendors with fruit, dried and juiced, snake charmers, dancers, etc. The juice was honestly, best juice ever. The snakes, scariest thing ever. I hate snakes with every fiber of my being. In the market, there were booths/stalls of everything imaginable from pillows to bags, tourist crap to plates to more. The thing to do is obviously to haggle. Since I am no good at haggling, Ari took over and managed to get all of us stuff for like 50% off. I felt bad but at the same time was able to buy more stuff as a result. Shopkeepers kept thinking we were anything but American and trying to convince us prices were great against the pound so we should buy stuff. It was kinda hard to not respond, ya great against the pound but crappy against the dollar. By the time we left, I had bought this really cute leather and fabric duffle bag, a bunch of pillow covers, some jewelry, scarves and a few gifts. It was a very productive trip. ☺ One downside of the market was the existence of some real creepers. I got hit on by this creepy shopkeeper dude who was very inappropriate and then this other guy tried to “jokingly” harass me with a wooden toy snake. Now I am terrified of those things. On a funnier note, someone offered to buy Eliza from Ari for two camels. Needless to say, he said no. I said he should have said yes if the guy had offered to add a goat to the deal. Eliza was not totally amused by this.

On the second day (Saturday), we went on a tour up in the Atlas mountains which was a lot of fun. We left really early but managed to see some beautiful Moroccan countryside and mountains. It was gorgeous. We went to an old Kasbah (where Eliza and I covered up with a Hijab since it is a very conservative area) and to a Berber “city” often used in movies to be various countries in North Africa since it is in the desert. Movies such as Alexander were apparently filmed there. This trip was really fun but it hard to explain in writing.

The last major part of the trip was the food. Oh my gosh, it was good (and cheap). For the equivalent of 30 euros, we all three managed to get 2-3 courses on non-Vegetarian food and mint tea. Besides that, is was amazing. All different types of food I have never eaten before from Tagine to Couscous to Pastilla. Also the pastries were rather yummy. Overall, some of the best food I have since I have been in Europe/study abroad. Mostly because it was so different I guess.

Morocco was an exhausting trip but really rewarding. On a political note since some of you might be wondering why we went to Maghreb (North Africa) given the then and current political climate. Morocco is considered a relatively stable Arab state given it is a monarchy with no massive opposition. We were there the weekend Mubarak in Egypt resigned which we were unaware of at the time. Saturday night we did hear some chanting in support of Mubaraks resignation but it was nothing dangerous and honestly, kinda cool and unique since most people never get to experience even a small sense of that spirit. We only knew it related to the political situation because Ari could understand a few words since he speaks Hebrew which is similar to Arabic. Since we left, protests with a more violent nature did break out in Morocco but have been pushing more for general reforms and freedom rather than overthrow and their protests have been heard by the monarchy who has promised to start implementing the reforms it promised. The entire time though we were careful to keep a low profile and no one suspected American, even after we switched to English. We went at the right time and we knew that as soon as we set foot in Paris and read the headlines…

Ok so I really am horrible at this….

Seeing as it has been one month since I last wrote and a lot has happened, I am going to break this entry into multiple ones (probably 4) all written now but to make it easier to understand.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ok, In my Defense, I have been busy. :)

Hello Again,

So I know it has been a while and I am very sorry! I am just going to write about everything that has happened since I arrived in Strasbourg. I am warning everyone, this is going to be a very LONG entry and possibly a little scattered...

Ok so to start off with, I have an awesome internship. It is at the Council of Europe which is based here in Strasbourg. I am working in the Congress -- Chamber of Local Authorities which works to preserve local democracy and promote grassroots movements. This can be on subjects relating from the environment to violence, immigration to voting. It is actually pretty cool. I am working on two projects there at the moment. Firstly, I am working on editing the Wikipedia page in English for the Chamber of Local Authorities because it is a little outdated and needs to be expanded (go look for yourself). The second is helping to work on organizing a conference in April for European Mayors to address the situation of Roma in Europe which is a very hot button issue at the moment, especially here in France thanks to Sarkozy and his extreme policies. This internship is 3 college credits which means its a pretty large time commitment but it is one of the only ones (or possibly the only one) that hopkins gives more than 1 credit for because there is a written paper component. I have my own little desk and computer. I feel so grown up! I also have my first ever personal work email address: So official isnt it? My officemate Cansu is really nice too and has been really helpful! Shes from Turkey and is taking a gap year before law school. She makes longer work stretches really fun and has shown me the ropes. She has also offered to introduce me to some other interns from the Council and show me some stuff about Strasbourg. I should also say that I have a picture badge that lets me through nearly all security gates/doors. Again, am I really old enough to have a photo ID just like my daddy? I remember when I was little looking at my daddy's compaq badge and thinking, wow, thats so cool and adult like. I guess I am now hitting that point in my life....

Onto the next subject, I also love classes! I am taking 12 credits worth of actual classes since i am getting 3 credits from the internship. The first class is France from WWI to the EU which is a history class in French. That class just makes me smile. Next class is Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe which looks at Eastern and Central Europe post WWII. This includes the Cold War, Balkans, etc. Very complicated but really interesting. Next class is Europe and the Arc of Crises. Another Poli Sci/History class but this one looks at the identity of the Middle East and parts of Northern Africa. We are studying political changes and even the current crises all over the region. Last class is another French (history) class called France Under the Occupation and it is with the director of the program. I say history in parenthesis because it is kind of a history class, kind of a literature class, kind of a everything interdisciplinary approach to looking at a (still) very painful time in France's history. I really like all of my classes and professors. The two french classes include a trip in March to a concentration camp in France (the only one since they considered Alsace to actually be German and by they I mean the Germans) and the Arc of Crises goes to Istanbul. Needless to say, I am very excited. Lastly, I am taking a not-for-credit german class at the Universite Populaire (night classes) on Monday nights which is pretty fun except for I think I am the youngest person by at least in a decade in there which is funny.

Ok next subject. I love my host family and am finally feeling at home in my room. It is a little weird getting used to things but I am falling into a groove. I have to be places at 9am everyday (and Ive only overslept once so far!) so I get up and have eaten breakfast everyday. For anyone who knows me very well on a daily basis, you know that I dont eat breakfast so this is progress for me. Anyways, I am also eating so many new things! I tried rabbit for the first time which was interesting. Tasted like chicken and pork at the same time if you can imagine it. It is now the other other white meat. I thought it would be a red meat but nope. I am also eating a crap-load or pork but I am growing to love it. Basically, I am eating a lot. Oddly enough though, I am eating more and somehow losing weight which makes me happy since those are two things I like to do: eat and get healthier.

Ok now onto another subject. I went to Switzerland last weekend (not like yesterday but the one prior). It was really odd to go back as an adult but I think I needed it. We went to Basel and Zurich and just walked around. While there, we of course hit every chocolatier on Bahnhofstrasse which about broke the bank but oh well, at least I got my Teuscher fish chocolate. For those of you unfamiliar with Teuscher, look it up because (a) it kicks lindt and sprungli's butts and (b) I do not have enough time to profess my deep and profound love for it. If I could marry food, I would marry Teuscher. Understand? :) Anyways, It was really nice to just walk around and show my friends some of my favorite places while also learning what it was like to be there as a 20-year-old. I even got to return to my happy place on the lake which was pretty except for a few clouds which made it impossible to see the Alps. :( Anyways, it was kind of a day for personal reflection which I know sounds odd but if you know me, I have a lot of those days because I overanalyze...

That Sunday, we had to be back in Strasbourg because there was a mandatory school field trip to tour Alsace. We visited a cute little village/church and bought really good baked goods (who can say no to a chocolate eclair? if you can, you have problems). After that we had an AMAZING lunch of wild boar and spaetzle. It was also all you can eat which is dangerous but yummy. After than we visited a pretty castle up in the Vosges where we saw snow and signs of German pompous behavior when they reacquired Alsace and Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War. That evening was the wine tasting trip, school sponsored wine tasting. :) I tried 5 4 different wines I believe and somehow managed to spill an entire glass down my front. But it was good and I ended up buying two bottles :).

Ok, another subject once more (I was not kidding about this being a very long entry). So Strasbourg. I love it here. I have been exploring and exploring and keep finding new places! I also love the trams and buses, they make life so much easier! We have found our favorite restaurants, bars, snack places, grocery stores, banks, etc. Our adventures so far have included climbing the cathedral tower (which is free the first friday of every month) so of course I did it, finding a French club, meeting some odd English dudes who are working on Sherlock Holmes II in a bar, exploring the set of the movie (because parts were filmed here and yes, robert downing jr was here) and somehow walking to germany, yes walking on foot from downtown Strasbourg. Many others of course but way too many to list!

Overall, I am loving life here. Next weekend I am going to Morocco with two friends (Eliza and Ariel) which should be a lot of fun. We will see what crazy adventures we get into or if I happen to kill Ari in the meantime. :) I think Eliza being there might save him. Anyways, until next time my dearies! And to the Kappas back at JHU, good luck with rush and I am thinking about you!! Let's get some new baby owlettes!!!! (sounds better than little keys...)


Saturday, January 15, 2011

So a lot has happened...

Ok so sorry it has taken me a week to write but between everything going on and shaky internet access, i have been unable to write until now. I am finally in Strasbourg with my host mama and her family. The past few days have been crazy with Amsterdam, Cologne and finally coming here to Strasbourg!

Amsterdam was fun (and not that kind of fun!) and definitely better than last time. We visited the Tropenmuseum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House in addition to many other places around Amsterdam. I tried a Heineken to be in the dutch fashion and found it to be the only beer that I actually like! This of course was after a friend told the waitress he wanted to do a Heiny (of course referring to the beer) and made everyone laugh. After that, anything probably would taste good. I did go to the red light district just to see what it was and wow, never going back again. Thank goodness I went on Sunday evening because I don't think I could stand it on a busy day. I will stop now to avoid my crazy, feminist rant which has already been given multiple times. I also tried indonesian food for the first time which is AWESOME!!! I also tried duck another time and honestly, not a huge fan. Overall I would say Amsterdam was a good time and I would love to go back.

After Amsterdam we went to Cologne, Germany for a few days to wind down before returning to France. While it was interesting and the cathedral beautiful, it was not my favorite city. As in keeping with my new found goal of trying the local drink of every place I go, I tried Koelsch which, honestly, tastes like slightly fancier Natty Bo (or to you non-Baltimoreans, really cheap, crappy beer). Overall I feel that Cologne was a time to recuperate and sleep and relax after a crazy, exhausting week. Yesterday we left Cologne and arrived here in Strasbourg where I am literally 10 min on bike from Germany as I sit here in my bed.

So Strasbourg, I love you and think you are awesome. Yesterday we started orientation and had a meeting with Prof Bach who is acting as our advisor before we got here. About 2 hours after we arrived, we met out host families. I an living in a cute little house across the river from the European Parliament and down the road from the Council of Europe. I can pretty much see parliament out my window, its crazy! Plus I am only a 10-15 min walk from school which is closer than I was in Bmore. Not to mention this walk is entirely down the river. So I am living in a house with an older lady and another Syracuse Student like me, Kylie who actually goes to Fordham in New York (I think I spelled that right...). Our host mamas children and grandchildren are over a lot which is really cool. Kylie and I have the top floor which is nice. Our host mama does have very strict rules though on English usage: basically do not use it unless you have to, French or German only! Which I am ok with. I think this will be a good semester!

Today was our first full day in Strasbourg so we explored a bit. I have suddenly turned into a morning person and woke up at 8am, mon dieu! We ate breakfast and explored the town. I eventually went and got a cell phone which made me feel connected with the world once more! Other than that, we did a little shopping with all of the sales and just walked around this gorgeous city. I cannot believe this is my home for the next 4 months!!! Anyways, I shouldn't stay on my computer too long or else my host mama will think I am weird. Bis spaeter!!!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Au Revoir Paris!

Hello once more.

So I am sitting once more in my hostel lobby where I cam receive internet. Since this is my last evening before we leave for Amsterdam, I thought I would write about the last two days.

Yesterday we started out at the Shoah (Holocaust) Memorial and then spent the afternoon at the L'assemblee nationale (National Assembly). The Shoah Memorial was really interesting and unsettling at times. What made it different than many other Holocaust memorials/museums I have visited is that this one showed how the French Government and not actually the Nazis actually deported people and eventually handed them over to the Germans but that it was conducted by the French themselves. Since the theme of our seminar is European Identity and focuses on immigration and minorities, it showed what can happen when the government starts taking statistics and organizing people based on ethnicity, a very un-French concept since the revolution when everyone was declared simply French. It was also eerie because except for approximately 100 names, Shoah/Holocaust historians have been able to identify every person who was deported from France during this time.

After that we walked around that part of town and had lunch before catching the metro over to the Place de la Concord. This is where the primary guillotine of the revolution stood and now an Egyptian Obelisk marks the spot. Conveniently it is across the street from the US Embassy and across the river from the National Assembly where we took an audio tour and got a unique look into a different type of governmental structure which is very top-down as opposed to our American system. That evening we had some interesting speakers from the embassy who talked about the US' role in French minority and immigration issues.

That evening a couple of us went out to the eiffel tower where we waited in line and went up to the second floor. We would have gone up to the top except that it was closed since it is winter. After eventually coming down from the tower, we all got nutella crepes with bananas which of course are one of my favs! Then we came back to the hostel to rest our feet and get an early night.

Today was fun as well and we went to Versailles. As expected, it was beautiful even though the grey skies and rain of Paris and its surroundings. After getting in free since I am now a student and resident of France :) and visiting the palace, we went for lunch and then walked around the gardens after grabbing pastries of course. I tried two new flavors of macaroons, Rose Lichi and Pain d'Epice. I was trying to be adventurous but not very successfully, oh well. After that we walked around the gardens and saw purple water. After getting a little lost, we walked back to the bus and got on it to go back to Paris where we had more speakers on the issue of French multi-culturism.

Tonight we had a lot of fun as well and went to l'Aric de Triomphe, le Champs d'Elysses et la Place de la Concord again. It was nice to walk around in downtown Paris and just have a good time. Now onto Amsterdam and then Cologne. While I am excited for this, I really cannot wait to actually get to Strasbourg and explore. Oh well, now its time for bed so I will write more in a few days!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paris, Paris, Where to Begin?

Hello again.

So to start off, my bags were both under 50 lbs! I say victory!! So a lot and I mean a lot has happened since my last post. I am in Paris sitting in the lobby of the hostel where we are staying and I have met some awesome people so far from all over.

My last hours in New York were a lot of fun. We hit Chelsea Market where we ate crepes and visited Eleni's Bakery, one of my mom's favorites. After that, we relaxed in the hotel lobby and had lunch before getting in the cab for the airport. Once at the airport, I said goodbye to my mom and started to meet people from the program. After checking in and meeting the teacher going with us, we went through security and chilled at the gate, nothing too exciting but it was a chance to get to know people.

The plane ride was, well, a plane ride. Long time of sitting but the food was actually ok and the movies were good so I only got 3 hours sleep. Our plane was HUGE! It was a full tw0-story plane with like 100 rows or more total, insane right?!?! Once we arrived in Paris, it took a while for our luggage to show up but I was so excited to see my baby blue luggage straps with fleurs de lis come down the conveyor belt because that meant I would not need to go naked!! (another reason to love fleurs de lis!!) We were exhausted and jetlagged all day but had a good time going on a boat tour of Paris except we were all pretty tired and took naps for some of the ride... For lunch we explored the area around the hostel and found donner kababs which I forgot how much I loved. But that evening was a go-to-sleep early evening and it felt great!

Today was a bit longer with visits to the Luxembourg Gardens, pantheon, a small church nearby, a middle-eastern restaurant next to the Grand Mosquee and the Immigration Museum. A lot of walking around and reading French but it was worth it in the end!

Tonight a group of like 9 or 10 of us went out after dinner to a bar thing not far from the hostel which was a lot of fun. There we met this French lady named Daniela who kept speaking to us, half in English and half in French while simultaneously force feeding us cheese she ordered from the restaurant attached. She was hilarious and kept calling the one guy in our group Aaron "Sugar." Lets see what tomorrow brings!

Well I am very tired and need sleep. Plus my computer is about to die and none of the plugs around me seem to work. :( I will write more sometime soon!!!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

So the Journey Begins!!

Hey Guys!

So right now I am sitting in my hotel room in New York getting ready to fly out tomorrow from JFK to Paris. After a fun-filled weekend hitting the city with my mom, I think it is time to get back to some "serious" studying and schoolwork. We have been hitting the town in our girls trip style with some broadway, food and museums, a great way to finish off the holidays and spend my last nights stateside for 4 months. We saw "Rock of Ages" on Saturday and "Promises, Promises" today with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes which happened to be the last show ever since it is closing. It was awesome with Sean Hayes intentionally trying to make other cast member laugh and random bouts of crying near the end as they were delivering their lines for the last time. We also went to the Met because no trip is ever complete without looking at ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Mesopotamian artifacts and statues according to my mom. It was cool to both be students and show our oddly similar ID cards. :P Now onto thinking about the next exciting 4 months!!

I am keeping this blog for two reasons. First to keep my family and friends up to date on what I am doing since I obviously won't be able to email/text/call everyone all the time for an entire semester. Second to keep a record for myself since I have never been good at keeping diaries or journals. Either way, I will still be checking facebook and my email since I am seriously addicted to technology; it is a problem. With that said, I hope to update this blog every week but as I have seen with friends who have gone in the past, that does not always happen. :) I apologize in advance for any spelling errors or grammar mistakes but I will try to correct them.

So while I am studying for the semester in Strasbourg, France, my semester starts out with a 10-day, 2-credit seminar that travels from Paris to Amsterdam to the Hague to Cologne (Germany) to Strasbourg. I am so excited to go to 2 new places (the Hague and Cologne) but also to return to Paris and Amsterdam. Hopefully this trip will go better than my last visit to the Netherlands. :) While I have to do reading every night for classes which are mixed in with cultural visits, I am still very excited to explore!

Anyways, I should probably try to get some sleep before tomorrow so that I can be bubbly for all of the people I am going to meet at the airport for our group flight. Cross your fingers that my luggage is not over 50 lbs because knowing me, it probably will be due to shoes...