November 8th-30th 2018- 十一月のイベントとオリンピックの会じょう (November Events and Olympic Venues)

Light tunnel at Sea Paradise Illumination

(I am back home right now, but please try to bear with me as I write my last two blogs in a quick manner.)

Konnichiwa! Two months have passed during my time abroad in Japan, which means it is near the homestretch of the program. This post will talk about events that happened during November. In addition, I will also be talking about some of the Olympic venues that I visited.  Along with my other four class, there is an independent research class called Perspectives in Japan with the theme of 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I had to choose one aspect of Olympic preparation and conduct research on my own. Since my topic was sustainable venues, I visited some of the venues that will be used for the 2020 Summer Olympics. With that being said, 始めましょう!

Thursday 11/08- Our economics class took a field trip to the Kirin Beer Yokohama Factory where we went on a tour about how the beer is made and processed at the factory plant. The brewery is the only major Japanese manufacturer to produce their own malt and selecting their finest ingredients by traveling far to select the highest-quality of it. After the tour, we got to do some beer tasting. It was my first time tasting beer and let me tell you that it was the most disgusting thing I ever drank (in my opinion)! The taste was very bitter like some cough medicine your parents forced you to take when you were sick, and I wanted to throw up! I even tried both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers and they still gave that same bitter taste. The only thing I enjoyed was the snack that was provided with the beer tasting. This was the most interesting field trip that I ever went to, and the first one where I drank (remember, 20 is the legal drinking age in Japan).

Beer processing plant at Kirin Beer Factory
Beer processing plant at Kirin Beer Factory

Sunday 11/11- I decided to have a nice and relaxing Sunday by going to Umi no Koen, a marine seaside park with the only beach in Yokohama. Nearby the park was an amusement park with an aquarium called Sea Paradise which is why you can see a rollercoaster on the shoreline. (I actually visited the amusement park later on this month). Although it was nothing compared to the beaches back home, I still had a great time sitting on the sand and listening to the sounds of the ocean.

Umi no koen
Umi no koen

Tuesday 11/13- Our Japanese Cultural Studies Class went to a concert in Shinjuku called Mangekyo. Mangekyo was a modern taiko concert with modern image projection mapping and very stylish costumes. This was unlike any taiko concert I had ever seen. I thought the performers were good-looking, and had great energy. I also thought they were having fun and so was the audience. I was only allowed to take a few pictures near the end of the show.

Mangekyo concert finale
Mangekyo concert finale
Taiko drummers of Mangekyo
Taiko drummers of Mangekyo

Friday 11/16- I went to see the “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie in a theater nearby Kamiooka Station. To get tickets, you can pre-purchase them online ahead of time, then when you arrive at the theater you get the ticket out of a machine. For snacks they have the typical ones served at the movie theater except for popcorn, the only original flavor they have is shoyu-butter which was actually pretty tasty. As for the movie, I thought it was a great storyline with fantastic music. The one thing about movie theaters in Japan is that everyone stays until the credits have finished playing. It is because they are showing respect to the directors and producers who created the film. I found that pretty interesting since I never stay for the credits because they are somewhat boring. At least there was good music playing during that portion.

Saturday 11/17- I took a little trip to the two most populated cities home to Japanese pop culture: Harajuku and Shibuya (round 1)! My first stop was at Meiji Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Since it was also the shichi-go-san (Seven-Five-Three) Festival that weekend, I saw many families with their kids dressed in kimonos. Nearby, I took a stroll down Yoyogi Park, one of Tokyo’s largest city parks which featured a lot of nature. Fun Fact: Before becoming a city park, it was the site of the Olympic Village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. From the religious and peaceful side of Harajuku, I went through one of most busiest and crowded places: Takeshita Street. This street is known for many shops, boutiques and restaurants along the way, including the largest Daiso store (Japanese version of the Dollar Tree Store)! It is especially crowded during the weekends if you wish to go during that time. I also tried one of Harajuku’s famous crepes. After pushing my way through the crowds, I went to a rabbit café called Ra.a.g.f. The cost was 700 yen for a half-hour session along with 150 yen to feed the rabbits and drinks for yourself. The bunnies I played with were really cute! Then, I wrapped up my trip by conquering the famous Shibuya scramble crossing street. It was amazing to see so many people crossing the street all at once with some taking selfies in the middle of the crosswalk. I even saw the view of the crossing from a nearby Starbucks and it was amazing! And that was round 1 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip!

Sunday 11/18- The Enoshima Yacht Harbor was the first of the Olympic venues that I visited for my independent research. Before I go further, past Olympic venues have now become abandoned “ghost towns.” What Tokyo is trying to do for the 2020 summer games is to use existing facilities for 60% of their venues, including those that were used in the 1964 games. The Yacht Harbor was used for the yacht competition back in 1964 and will be used for the sailing events in the upcoming games. It has also been used for other sailing competitions as well.

Enoshima Yacht Harbor Club House
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Club House
Enoshima Yacht Harbor
Enoshima Yacht Harbor
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Center Promenade
Enoshima Yacht Harbor Center Promenade

Wednesday 11/21-  Around this time of year, many places have huge light displays called Illumination and they have become popular attractions. I went to one Illumination display with my KGU buddies, along with a few friends, at the Sea Paradise amusement park (the one I mentioned earlier in this blog) in Hakkeijima. It was really beautiful with tons of lights all over the place including a huge Christmas tree and a colorful light tunnel.

Christmas tree at Sea Paradise Illumination
Christmas tree at Sea Paradise Illumination
My KGU buddies and I at Sea Paradise Illumination
My KGU buddies and I at Sea Paradise Illumination (Photo was taken by my buddy’s friend. He is a great photographer).
Picture of me taking a picture
Picture of me taking a picture (also taken by my KGU buddy’s friend)

Thursday 11/22- Even though there was no Thanksgiving in Japan, our Japanese Cultural Studies professor took us out to dinner at a sushi restaurant. Earlier, I didn’t want to go because I was very tired, plus there were some personal issues I encountered recently. However, my professor encouraged me to go to experience a Thanksgiving in Japan. So I went along with my classmates, and we got to have sushi with my professor along with her two daughters. The sushi was really good including the flower that was part of the plating decorations. (In Japan, everything on the plate is made to be eatable so it was okay!) The one thing that was embarrassing/awkward about the dinner was when the head of the sushi restaurant pointed out and asked if we were foreigners. Then our professor told him where we all came from, enthusiastically. One little pet peeve that I adapted during studying abroad is when I am in a place with few tourists, and someone points out if we are foreigners. They weren’t acting racist or anything, but it just makes me feel a little awkward standing out as a 外国人 (foreigner).

My ikebana arrangement at KADO event
My ikebana arrangement at KADO event

Saturday 11/24- The International Center arranged a kado (flower arrangement) experience for the international students. We were taught by a professor from Kyoto University about the art of ikebana. When creating ikebana, you have to find balance as you are arranging the flowers and the branches plus there has to be no symmetry in between. It was a bit difficult trying to fit all my plants in a perfect place. The end result did not come out as perfect, and at one point I wanted to throw it out. But temporarily, I put it on my balcony in my dorm.

Yoyogi National Stadium
Yoyogi National Stadium
Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace
Imperial Palace Garden
Imperial Palace Garden
Bamboo Pathway of Imperial Palace Garden
Bamboo Pathway of Imperial Palace Garden

Sunday 11/25- These next two places were also future Olympic venues. The Yoyogi National Stadium which is nearby Yoyogi Park was used for the basketball and aquatics events back in 1964. For the 2020 games, it will be used for handball events and the para-badminton wheelchair rugby events for the Paralympic games. The Imperial Palace Garden was not used as a venue for the 1964 games, but another goal that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee is trying to achieve is the use of nature within the city and city within nature. This venue includes traditional landscape Japanese gardens and will be used for the race-walking events.

(Another sustainable venue for the Tokyo Olympics that I mentioned in my first blog is the Yokohama Baseball Stadium which will be used for the softball and baseball events.)

Tuesday 11/27- The International Center arranged another cultural event for the international students. This time, it was a sado experience that involved kimono dressing and tea ceremony. For the tea ceremony portion, we were taught how to make the tea using the traditional tools that are used for the tea ceremony. While I was waiting for my kimono dressing appointment, I actually took part in the tea ceremony for a second time where the host actually makes the tea. Then it was time for my kimono dressing experience. I was dressed in the complete kimono outfit, including tabi (Japanese socks) and geta (Japanese wooden shoes). I even got my hair styled in a traditional kimono hairstyle.

Me in complete kimono outfit
Me in complete kimono outfit
Back side of kimono outfit
Back side of kimono outfit

Friday 11/30- There was a farewell party for the departing International students. Each of us gave a short speech that we prepared in Japanese class. I was a bit nervous not because I had to say it in Japanese, but because of another reason. Compared to the other study abroad participants, my experience was not as perfect as theirs. I made a lot of mistakes and had many struggles. There were also times where I thought my Japanese wasn’t improving (even though several people said I spoke good Japanese). I know I shouldn’t be beating myself up with what happened to me in the past, but I was also thankful at the same time to the people that helped me along the way and believed in me like the International staff and my KGU buddies. Now enough said about my speech! I also gave each of the International staff members a box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as my way of saying thanks for all they have done. For future study abroad participants, always bring a little something from your hometown to give to the ones who have helped you on your journey. That includes your host family, International staff members, friends, etc. After the farewell party, we went to a izakaya in Yokohama with our KGU buddies for a drinking party. Before I leave Japan, I wanted to have a chance to drink sake, so this was a perfect chance. I had the umeshu drink, and it tasted great! Overall, I had a blast drinking with my KGU buddies as this was one of the last times we would be together before parting ways.

Having fun with my KGU buddies at drinking party
Having fun with my KGU buddies at drinking party

Well that was a quite a mouthful that happened during the month of November. I know it was jam-packed, but I had to do a lot because I was running out of time.

じゃあね!

ーアリッサ

Ireland and the beginning of winter break

We are officially done with classes and ready for winter break!

This last week was full of stress, I had to write a paper that is 100% of my grade and pack up my dorm room completely. But it was also full of excitement because for the next month I will be traveling Europe.

Saturday my mom will arrive in Nottingham and we will begin our holiday exploring the UK. Even though I spent the last few months here, there is still so much that I haven’t seen, and so much that I am excited to do with my mom. More on this to come later.

The weekend after Carmen and spent 40 hours to get to Loch Ness and back, our little group ventured to Ireland. We flew from East Midlands to Dublin early Thursday morning. When I say early I mean early, we caught a bus from campus to the airport at 4 am.

The flight was only 40 minutes, give or take, and so by 8 am we had landed and made it through customs with another stamp on our passports. We took the bus to our hostel where we left our bags so we could explore the city. Not knowing what we really wanted to do in Dublin, we wandered around. Our first mission was to find bagels, a staple we were all craving since the Starbucks on campus is seriously lacking in bagel options.

The Grand Canal in Dublin
The Grand Canal in Dublin

After that we made our way to Trinity College, as it was on the list of places that you should visit in Dublin. As we were wandering the campus, admiring the amazing detail in the buildings, we happened upon a graduation ceremony. As we were walking across a courtyard, people in caps and gowns poured out of the building opposite as us. Deciding that was a sign to leave, we headed in the direction of the Cathedral.

Trinity College
Trinity College

After visiting two churches and Dublin Castle we headed to the National Botanical Garden. With three greenhouses and plenty of picturesque gardens outside, we spent hours wandering the grounds. It was so beautiful and by far was one of my favorite spots in Dublin.

The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
The grounds at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens
A cool looking tree at the botanical gardens

Later, after we had eaten and managed to find our way back to the hostel, Carmen and I decided that we should go to a bar and get a flight of beer, because if you don’t try beer in Dublin, where you really there? After going to three bars, we finally found one that offered a flight, instead of just pints. As neither of us have really had beer, it seemed like the best way to really try and see if we liked any beers, unfortunately, we don’t.

Friday morning we headed to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Again, the first thing we did in was check into our hostel so we could drop our bags. We wandered around the city centre, managing to run into a Christmas market. We went to Victoria Shopping Centre to avoid the rain and to see the famous dome on top of the mall. We found a cute vegan restaurant for dinner and then headed back to our hostel, calling it a night early so we could wake up early Saturday morning.

A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant's Causeway
A view of the ocean during the hike to Giant’s Causeway

The only thing I really wanted to do on this trip was go to Giant’s Causeway, a formation of naturally hexagonal rocks, on the coast of a village called Bushmills. Luckily, it took no convincing to get my friend’s to agree. So Saturday we got up early, checked out of our hostel, and made our way to the bus/train station. The Causeway is a little more than an hour away from Belfast, and a train plus a bus ride away but it was totally worth it. We spent the majority of the day walking around, climbing the rocks and hiking the cliff next to the causeway.

A small formation of the rocks at Giant's Causeway
A small formation of the rocks at Giant’s Causeway

Although it seems like the only way to access the causeway is by paying £11 to get into the visitors center,  we did some research and learned that there are paths that lead to the causeway that don’t require you to pay. The only downside of not paying is that if you want souvenirs, you have to have a ticket. We got one and took turns going inside to look at the gift shop.

We made our way back to Belfast that afternoon/night and grabbed dinner at a knock-off Chipotle, yet another craving satiated. Then we opted to spend the night in the airport since our flight was early the next morning.

Sunday morning we caught our flight from Belfast to Manchester and then took a train back to Nottingham. As soon as I was back in my room I passed out, exhausted from the weekend’s adventures.

In the two weeks following the trip I worked on my essays and researched how to pack and looked at travel tips, preparing for my month long trip where I would be living out of a backpack. I packed my entire dorm room up, as we have to move out for winter break. Luckily, this wasn’t that difficult as I only brought one checked bag in the first place.

Now I am waiting for my mom to get here, so my break can really start.

Rilee

Episode 10: The End

Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria. To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for. 

Wow. Never ever would I have thought that I would be writing this blog post. Let alone be ending a trip of 4 months in Europe. This study abroad wasn’t just a simple trip to Europe, it was a grand adventure. It was a growing experience, a learning experience and overall an amazing experience. From leaving Oregon and getting stuck in London for a day to FINALLY arriving in Vienna, Austria.

To think that was over 4 months ago. The memories I’ve made have been never ending and unforgettable. I will never forget the people, the friends I have made. Everyone at the Institute became like a second family to me. The professor are people I will never forget, Pokorny’s politics class, Hanreichs history course and Vedran’s diversity class. Each one I learned something so very new. They all opened my eyes and helped me look at the world in a different way. They taught me things about Europe and Austria that I never thought Id know. It was a part of this adventure I am so grateful for. 

Vanessa, Ana, Micahaela, Me, Verena and Heidi at the AAIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Micahaela, Me, Verena and Heidi at the AAIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Michaela, Me and Hermann at the AAIIE Christmas Party.
Vanessa, Ana, Michaela, Me and Hermann at the AAIIE Christmas Party.

The other students. Now those are people I will never ever forget and I hope that the next group has as good as a time as we did. Going from spending every single day together for the past 4 months (literally every single day) to not seeing each other for two months is going to be hard. But while in Austria we have collected so many memories that will last for a life time. We have become a family and I will never forget the time we’ve had here.  

Thomas, Michaela, and Ana at a market in Bratislava!
Thomas, Michaela, and Ana at a market in Bratislava!
Some of the group at thanksgiving.
Some of the group at thanksgiving.
Vanessa, Michaele, Thomas, Ana and Kiefer in Budapest.
Vanessa, Michaele, Thomas, Ana and Kiefer in Budapest.
Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!
Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!

Now to say thank you. Thank you to Hermann, Gretl, Verena and Heidi. Thank you for making the Institute and Vienna feel like a home. For being so kind and welcoming when we arrived and for continuing to be so kind and welcoming through the whole trip. Thank you for every little thing you have done for us. You all are people we will never ever forget and I know we can not wait to see you again. Thank you so much for being one giant family. 

Everyone from the AAIE and Linfield group at the AAIE christmas party.
Everyone from the AAIE and Linfield group at the AAIE christmas party.

Thank you to our host families. The ones who took us in and housed us, fed us and showed us the city when we didn’t even understand the ubahn. Thank you for always being there for us. Thank you for coming to all of our events. Thank you for everything. 

Vanessa and her wonderful host parents Julia and Bernhard.
Vanessa and her wonderful host parents Julia and Bernhard.

Thank you to the other students on this trip. At the beginning I did not think we would do the things we did. I didn’t think we would spend every single day together, go on almost every trip together and become such great friends together. With out you guys this study abroad wouldn’t have been the same. 

Everyone ice skating!
Everyone ice skating!

Austria and Europe I thank you for showing me your beauty. For showing me sun in October and snow in December. For helping me grow into a better more cultured person. Thank you for teaching me so many new things and letting me meet so many new people.

A Church that looks like a castle in Vienna.
A Church that looks like a castle in Vienna.
 "Frohe Weihnachten." (Merry Christmas) in lights.
Views from Greece.
Views from Greece.
Roof Panorama of Budapest, Hungary.
Roof Panorama of Budapest, Hungary.
Hiking in the Alps.
Hiking in the Alps.

Thank you for all the experiences, good times and long lasting friendships. We will miss you. 

This isn’t a goodbye but a see ya later. 

Melissa Rockow 

October 30th-November 5th 2018- 秋休み (Fall Break)

Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima

Konnichiwa! The week after Oppama Y Festa, it was fall break and everyone went off to explore on their own. I will talk about my experience during fall break. じゃあ、始めましょ!

Tuesday 10/30- Fall break for KGU did not officially start until the next day, but my Japanese Cultural Studies professor decided to cancel class that day. Therefore, I decide to venture out to Tokyo Skytree, a television broadcasting tower and one of the landmarks of Tokyo located in the center of Skytree Town. I went all the way to top at 450 meters and since the weather was clear that day, I was able to see Mt. Fuji from the observation decks. There was also a large shopping area at the base where I did some omiyage (souvenir) shopping.

View of Tokyo Skytree from the bottom
View of Tokyo Skytree from the bottom

Observatory deck view with Mt. Fuji
View of the city of Tokyo from observatory deck with Mt. Fuji in the back (circled in red)

Alyssa at 450 meters
Me at 450 meters

Wednesday 10/31- I decided to venture off on my own by first going to Kyoto. I went by the Shinkansen bullet train and it took about three hours from Yokohama to Kyoto. That day I visited two shrines/temples; the Nishi Hongwanji and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I will not go into much detail about the shrines, so I will leave links at the bottom so you can learn more about them. The best part was that these shrines were FREE! At night, I went to the Gion Corner show which was a theater that showcased Kyoto’s performing arts including, koto (Japanese harp), kado (flower arrangement), kyogen (ancient comic play), kyomai (Kyoto style dance) and chado (tea ceremony) where I was one of the two audience members that participated. I stayed at a modern hostel that was only around $26 USD a night, so it was a good deal. And since it was Halloween that day, it was weird to not see many people dressed up in costume especially in Kyoto, except for one foreigner dressed up in a unicorn onesie at a ramen restaurant. On a side note, the place where many people dress up and celebrate Halloween is Tokyo specifically, Harajuku and Shibuya area. That is the last place you would want to be on Halloween in Japan since it can get crazy!

Nishi Hongwanji: http://www.hongwanji.or.jp/english/

Fushimi Inari: https://kyoto.travel/en/shrine_temple/180

Thursday 11/01- The next day I went to Yasaka Shrine which was also free and nearby was the Teramachi shopping district. It is where all the junior high school and high school students buy stuff to take home and many are affordable. Therefore, I did a little shopping in that area. After that, I was off to Hiroshima by bullet train which took about two hours. At Hiroshima, I saw the Atomic Bomb Dome, and the Children’s Peace Monument, and Peace Memorial Park. The Atomic Bomb Dome looked so real with all the rubble remaining after the bomb dropped. For the Children’s Peace Monument, I have a very special connection. In my senior year of high school, I held and origami crane drive where I encouraged the students at my high school to make origami cranes and donated them to the Children’s Peace Monument. And here I am three years later at the place where all the cranes ended up! I also saw many elementary school groups come for school field trips where they donated cranes and prayed in front of the monument and sang a song. During the night, I stayed at a Japanese-style guesthouse which was around 39$ USD a night. The gentleman who owned the place was really nice, and even took me to the supermarket to get some food.

Yasaka Shrine: https://www.discoverkyoto.com/places-go/yasaka-jinja/

Friday 11/02- My time in Hiroshima continued the next day by going to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. I was very touched by the exhibits displaying the day that the atomic bomb dropped. It was also a little bit sad because there were many artifacts and pictures where people where injured very badly, and even burned. Because it was a little traumatic, it was hard for me to take a lot of pictures during my visit here. I even saw a peace “watch” tower that indicates the number of days since the A-bomb was dropped and the number of days since the last nuclear test. The last nuclear test was conducted a year ago in the United States and that made me feel sorry.

I am not a huge fan of politics, but I could tell that my country has taken a big step back with what has been happening recently. However, there is still hope that someday all nuclear weapons will be abolished. I even signed a petition at the museum about this act. Overall, it was one of my goals to visit Hiroshima during my time because I am familiar with the atomic bomb drop, the story of Sadako Sasaki and the origami cranes and I am proud to say I achieved that goal. After visiting the museum, I ate Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) at a place called okonomi-mura, a “theme park” where there are many okonomiyaki restaurants in the vicinity. Then, I returned to the Children’s Peace Monument to donate two cranes that I made while I was here.

As I was on my way to the station, I stopped by this cool facility called the Hiroshima Orizuru Tower, named after the folded paper crane. From the rooftop observation deck, you can see a view of city including the atomic bomb dome. There are also activities where you can learn about the art origami cranes such as making one and throwing it down the orizuru wall. It is a really cool place with a modern aspect, and I highly recommend while anyone is visiting Hiroshima. After that, I took the shinkansen back to Yokohama. The last two days was the first time I traveled by myself and I didn’t really do a lot of planning, I just went by ear. But, I was able to get around safely without getting lost at all!

Saturday 11/03- My host family along with a family friend went to the annual windsurfing event sponsored by the KGU windsurfing club at Tsukui Beach coast located in Yokosuka-shi. Now, being from Hawaii I have never surfed in my entire life, so I was a little nervous. And as it turns out, I did not do so well the first try as I struggled to balance on the board, and falling off eventually. As soon as I was able to maneuver the vessel, I went out too far past a point where I was screaming “Tasukete!” (help!); luckily I got towed back to shore. I almost lost my glasses when I fell off the board, but they were able to be found. It was a close call, and I should have taken another pair with me just in case. My host mother was not as lucky as I was because she too fell off the board and she completely lost her glasses which never ended up being found. She was also supposed to take me back to the dorms that day, and without them she wouldn’t be able to drive. However, another family that she invited lent her a pair, so everything turned out well. But for the most part, a lot of my time was spent screaming, swimming in the water, and playing in the sand. I wish I had more time trying to windsurfing, and I think I am the first International student that failed at windsurfing.

Group photo with windsurfing club members
Me, my host sister, and her friend along with some of the windsurfing club members

Me trying to windsurf
Me attempting windsurfing on the first try. (As you can see, I probably fell off the board few seconds after this photo was taken)

Group photo after windsurfing
Everyone is happy even though we did not successfully windsurf on the first try. (And yes, I was the one that came up with the shaka pose!)

After the event, my host family along with my KGU buddy ate dinner at a food court in a shopping complex. Then, my host mother took me back to dorms which meant my homestay had come to the end. I enjoyed spending time with my host family. I will miss being greeted by their dogs when I arrive at the door and playing with them, the breakfast bentos my host mom always makes me every morning, the super comfortable bed in my room which is actually my host sister’s, and most of all the おもてなし (hospitality) and strong relationship between my host family and I. Overall, my homestay experience became one of my happiest memories. The moment before I went back to the dorms, I hugged my host mother tight before we parted ways. After leaving my host family, I had a bit of withdrawal and I even played James Arthur’s “Say you Won’t Let Go” because of it. I hope to see my host family again before I leave Japan.

Monday 11/05- The International Center organized a bus tour for international and Japanese students where we went to a variety of places. First we went to the Yamanashi Shinbun Mochi Factory Tour where we got to see kinako mochi being made. At the gift shop, I tried about four pieces of one of their kinako products. Then we went to Misaka Farm for some grape picking and had lunch. After that, we went to the Lako Loho Lake Experience studio where we made gel candles at Kraft Park. Finally we went to Oishi Park where we could see Mt. Fuji but unfortunately, the weather was very cloudy so we could not see it. It turned out to be a great time bonding with buddies and other students.

I happened to make the most of my fall break because that is one of the only times that I was free and had no studying to do. For future participants, if you have a weeklong break like mine, I strongly encourage you to really take advantage of it by exploring many places and doing many activities. You might not have time near the end of your semester to travel due to final exams and projects. And I will say this again; 90 DAYS IS NOT A LOT OF TIME for a semester abroad program. So don’t be afraid and explore while you have the time (but be safe about it.)

Excelsior! (In honor of late Marvel creator, Stan Lee)

じゃあまた(see you later)

Me with one of my KGU buddies
Me with one of my KGU buddies (before taking this selfie, a grape fell out of my mouth LOL!)

-アリッサ

(Disclaimer: I apologize that these posts are coming out so late. The last few weeks had been busy with final papers and presentations, plus I had not been getting much sleep. Again, sorry for the delay in these posts and will try to get them posted as soon as possible.)

The end- of the first chapter

In early November my advisor and our program coordinator Florencia Casanova were sharing some bread and queso fresco at her house when she lightly squeezed my arm and said “I think you should stay in Chile.” We both laughed, but when I went home that night I couldn’t sleep. Credits and classes and major requirements were running through my head. My heart wanted to stay, and I wondered if picking up Spanish as a second major and staying in Chile was even feasible for me.

On November 7th I emailed my Spanish and Journalism advisors and asked them if there was even a possibility of making this a reality, and on December 5th IPO bought me a return round trip flight to Chile. So now I write to you not as a Spanish minor who is leaving Chile indefinitely in two days, but a Spanish major who gets to come back here to study for the spring semester.

Thank you Florencia for encouraging me to do this and for taking me in as your own “niña preciosa,” and thank you mom and dad and Anna for handling the slight shock of my decision with nothing but grace. Thank you professors Sivek, Terra and Ticas for working out my classes and credit load details, and thank you Marie, Michele and the IPO staff for not hesitating to book me a return trip. Thank you Courtney for supporting me even though we were supposed to live together next spring, and thank you Angel, Jordan, Carson, Aengy, Joel, Naomi, Grace and all of my friends for understanding that this is something I need to do. And most of all, thank you Chile and the people I’ve met here for truly making this the best time in my whole life. I have nothing but love in my heart.

And now, an open letter to the family I’ll be leaving and the friends who will be leaving me // Y ahora, una carta abierta a la familia a la que dejaré y a los amigos los que me dejarán:

Yo sé que no he dicho tanto en los últimos cuatro meses, entonces ahora estoy aprovechando la oportunidad para hacer algo lo que me siento más cómoda: les voy a escribir.

En esta época el año pasado, yo estaba en un lugar un poco oscuro, sintiéndome perdida e insegura sobre lo que quería hacer con esta vida. Necesité un cambio drástico para dejar todas mis preocupaciones atrás– necesité encontrar nueva gente y, también en realidad, a sí misma.

Hasta Mayo, yo iba a estudiar en Ecuador. Cuando mi profesora me invitó a participar en nuestro primer programa acá en Chile, yo dije que sí porque me sentí halagada porque ella pensó en mí nomás, y todos los días digo gracias a Dios por mi respuesta. No podía imaginar si yo hubiera ido a otro lugar.

A mi familia, quiero decir gracias por no solo estar compartiendo su casa, sino además sus vidas conmigo. Voy a extrañar tanto estar viviendo acá con ustedes. Claudia, usted ha sido mi recurso a todo, desde transportación pública hasta consejos sobre mi futuro, y siempre se está sacrificando por su familia, lo que me inspira. Y Pablo, gracias por siempre ser aire fresco y por mostrarme cómo trabajar diligentemente y al mismo tiempo divertirse sin arrepentimiento.    

A mis hermanos– Diego, mi mellizo, eras mi primera impresión de Chile. Gracias por tu amabilidad mis primeros días en la casa cuando no caché nada, y por sentir empatía por mi como una estudiante de intercambio. Contigo siempre me he sentido cómoda porque yo sé que entiendes esta experiencia. Pedro, será raro no tenerte afuera de mi pieza gritando a la computadora, y de una manera rara creo que voy a extrañarlo. Y a mi hermano mayor, Gabriel, te agradezco por siempre invitar a tu hermana chica para pasar un rato contigo y tus amigos, incluso cuando probablemente no querías– me has hecho sentir acogida en tu grupo, lo cual es algo que nunca pensé que sucedería. Voy a extrañar el sonido ligero cuando tocas la guitarra en la terraza y el sonido alto de tu risa contagiosa cuando veas un meme tonto.

Yo sé que los veré cuando vuelvo, pero no será lo mismo. Todos ustedes me han hecho un hogar en Chile, y por eso no tienen idea como agradezco yo estoy.

A Iñake, Leire, Maddi, Maider, Oihane, y Victor: con ustedes siempre lo paso bien, pese a la barrera del idioma y nuestros orígenes diferentes, y ojalá que sepan que siempre serán bienvenidos a cualquier lado donde me encuentre en los Estados Unidos; y les mando la misma invitación a los grupos de México, Colombia y Francia, y sus tutores, de la UBB Concepción. Nunca imaginé que habría tenido tanta suerte para conocer tan buena gente.      

Hablando claro, los amo a todos.

Con cariño,

Camille                        

Cape Town ep.3

Took a few weeks but I’m baaack! Currently sitting back in the U.S; this post will center around my week leading up to departure. Next week I’ll touch on my initial reactions being back and finally, on Christmas I’ll give you my 10 lessons learned in Cape Town. Ok, onward to today’s post:

My last week in Cape Town felt like I was being pulled by a dozen strings in different directions. I needed to pack, I needed to hike at least one more time, not to mention the list on my phone of all the places I still hadn’t eaten. One of the challenges of being abroad for 3 months is the thought process that goes along the lines of “Oh! I really want to (insert activity here!) but I have time to do it so no rush”. Then all of a sudden, you wake up one morning and realize there’s five days left and still so much you haven’t done.

Unsurprisingly, my last days at my internship were sad as I grew attached to the people and my surroundings. I realized how much I’d miss the small things, how both Remano and Hester knew how I take my morning cups of instant coffee (which tasted way better in SA I might add), looking up to see what time it was across the world, the hand statue I knocked over every day. But I was happy we got the chance to go out for one last dinner. I am truly grateful I got along well with both of them and have a newfound appreciation for co-working spaces.

As far as the last minutes of the trip: it was plenty stressful. A piece I never anticipated but now that I’m not panicking makes a great story: a trip with my flatmate Gauthier the day before my flight to a closed UPS warehouse to convince a guy to find and pass me an envelope (containing my permanent residency card that was left in the US and I had to overnight) through the gate. Once that was out of the way, I finally got everything packed and set for the journey home. My friends and I made an awesome plan and I spent my last day doing one of my favorite things: enjoying a beer tasting at the Cape Town Festival of Beer. Not only did we get to try some great brews, but I also got to say goodbye to a friend and brewery owner I wouldn’t have had a chance to see otherwise. Eventually, I found myself on a plane bound for Paris and after 34 hours of turbulence and delays, I made it into SFO. 

Per usual, here are some photos from my last week:

beach, blue sky and mountains
The last beach I explored! Won’t say it was my favorite because they’re all great but I do really love this view of the mountains.

2 guys on thrones
Riley and I found these thrones and had to pose for some pictures. Not very comfortable but definitely felt like royalty enjoying my beach-side seat.

Spent quite a bit of time my last 2 weeks on that table at -you guessed it!- a tattoo parlor. Ended up getting 4 new tattoos at this place, loved the resident pups there almost as much as my ink!

Our last meal as a team. Although Remano had a whole different business, it was great to cowork alongside him for a few months.

This band performing at the Festival of Beer was comprised of people all over 60 and I enjoyed it very very much.

Festival picture with some of the best people I met on my trip.

That’s all for now,  I’m off to take a nap (will the jetlag ever end??)

See you next week.

-Camila

 

Episode 9: Finals, the Institute and a Small message to Future Students

It’s finals week everybody, woohoo!! Well actually, it will be after finals week when you are reading this, but either way, everyone endured a finals week. Now although finals week was very tough and we spent lots of time studying, it was quite bitter sweet.

It was our last full week at the AAIE, a place I could call my second home. Over the course of the semester, we spent almost every single day there and to think that we won’t be back for a very long time and some of us may never be back. For all of those coming next fall (2019), make the most out of your time at the Institute. Make friends with the people that work there because they will become your second family whether you want it or not. And trust me, you’ll want it. Get to know Verena and Heidi and Lily, which is Hermanns’ sweet dog. Make the most of every opportunity they give you. It’s not something every school gets and Linfield students are so very lucky to have the opportunity to work so closely with everyone at the AAIE.

Make the most of Dorfgastein. It may be strange to just start in a small little village but trust me, it is an experience that will change your life forever. Get to know the people who run the pension. Get to know the Village and most of all get know yourself. Enjoy the crisp fresh air and the stars in the sky because that will not be in Vienna (even though it is still beautiful). Enjoy the amazing leisurely walks you will go on.

Second to last, get to know your group. Get to know all the other Linfield students and if possible, get to know the other students at the Institute. In the beginning, I would have never thought I’d be as close as I am now with all the other Linfield students on this trip. We’ve been through so many crazy adventures and have made so many memories together. Make the most of these friendships and cherish every moment with them because it’ll come and go sooner than you think.

Kiefer, Ana, Michaela, Vanessa, Thomas and I in Budapest.
Kiefer, Ana, Michaela, Vanessa, Thomas and I in Budapest.

Vanessa, Ana, Michaela and I in Bratislava.
Vanessa, Ana, Michaela and I in Bratislava.

 

Ps: This is not my last post I just hope that the future students coming next fall read this and take it in. You all will have the times of your lives here as long as you make the most of EVERY experience.

Best,
Melissa Rockow
Some of my favorite photos of some of the group! Including the ones above! (:

Vanessa, Michaela and Ana in Copenhagen!
Vanessa, Michaela and Ana in Copenhagen!

Vanessa, Ana and I in Rome during fall break!
Vanessa, Ana and I in Rome during fall break!

Ana and Michaela in Santorini during fall break!
Ana and Michaela in Santorini during fall break!

Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!
Vanessa and I at oktoberfest in Vienna!

Thomas, Michaela, and Ana in Bratislava!
Thomas, Michaela, and Ana in Bratislava!

Episode 8: Innsbruck x2

Boy oh boy have I been many places in Europe!  However in Austria, one of my favorite places I’ve been is Innsbruck. Innsbruck is the capital of Tirol, a Bundesland here in Austria. It’s surrounded by the Alps and has a river running right through it. The very first time I ventured there was by myself and oh my did I fall in love. However I didn’t do as much as I did the second time, I still knew it was a place I wanted to visit more than once. The train ride there is something out of a fairy tale taking you through the alps. Everyone I met was so kind and welcoming and it’s so very easy to go around.

Mariahilfestrasse in Innsbruck during my first trip there!
Mariahilfestrasse in Innsbruck during my first trip there!

Train ride there!
Train ride there!

Now the second time is when I realized I loved it even more (not more than Dorfgastein of course). I took a day trip again however this time I was with Tommy and Ana. And the Christmas markets had just opened!! When we first arrived we walked around the market. Missing home a little bit, we decided to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. After that we decided to become full tourists and purchase the Innsbruck card. This is something you can get for either 24 hour or 48 hours and it lets you go to all the tourist attractions in Innsbruck for free, as well as giving you free transportation. With it we decided to do something I’d never thought I’d do. We went to the tip top of the mountain range in the area known as Nordkette. I believe the name of it is called Hafelekarspitze and even though it was quite cold, it was absolutely beautiful and breath taking, both literally and figuratively.

Ana and Tommy waiting for the cable car with their Innsbruck Cards!
Ana and Tommy waiting for the cable car with their Innsbruck Cards!

With the cable car going up, we first stopped at the little village area where a lot of skiers will stay and looked at the Christmas market there.

Ana in the cablecar!
Ana in the cablecar!

Ana, Thomas and I at the second point on the mountain!
Ana, Thomas and I at the second point on the mountain!

We then made our way up to the next highest point. Here there was a small restaurant and even more beautiful views.

Views from the very top of the mountain.
Views from the very top of the mountain.

Tommy at the very top of the mountain!
Tommy at the very top of the mountain!

After this we decided to go to the very top. When we got there with the cable car, we hiked or I guess walked up the rest of the mountain, it was only like 10 minutes up. At the very top of the highest mountains in mountain ranges they place crosses. Here we saw one of those crosses. Overall, I can say that it was extremely beautiful. You could see the whole mountain range and all of Innsbruck and it’s neighboring towns.

The cross at the top of the mountain!
The cross at the top of the mountain!

Eventually we made our way down and decided to walk around the Christmas markets which were always wonderful. Around 7pm we made our way back to Vienna knowing that Innsbruck would be a place to go back to in the future.

Ana and I at the second highest point!
Ana and I at the second highest point!

Austrian flag marking that this part of the Alps is still in Austria!
Austrian flag marking that this part of the Alps is still in Austria!

At the very top of the mountain again!
At the very top of the mountain again!

Melissa

End of Semester and Study Trip to South China

My friend Ivy and I on the bus, Xi'an
My friend Ivy and I on the bus, Xi’an

As finals week slammed us CSI students in the heart of fall, our pressure ramped up significantly. Countless days spent at the nearby student hub Wudaokou coffee shops preparing for our finals rendered us tired beyond belief. But before we knew it, the 50 or so students in the programe were split into our two chosen lines–the Purple line bound for Tibet, with me and 14 others taking the Green bound for South China–and were off on a new adventure.

First stop for the Green Line: Xi’an, Shanxi Province. Once known as Chang’an in ancient times and bearing the nickname “City of Capitals”, Xi’an is the ancient centre of China and served as the seat of government for the Han, Tang, and countless other significant dynasties throughout China’s long history. Today, Xi’an contains loads of historically significant landmarks, such as its famous Bell and Drum Towers and the world-famous Tomb of Qinshihuangdi guarded by the Terracotta Soldiers.

My friend Alice and I posing with a woman wearing traditional Tang Dynasty clothing, Xi'an
My friend Alice and I posing with a woman wearing traditional Tang Dynasty clothing, Xi’an

My second time to Xi’an, I was just as captured by the awe-inspiring traditional architecture, local food, and vibrant culture Xi’an has to offer. Haggling with locals is always fun, but it’s especially interesting in places such as Xi’an, which Mandarin-speaking foreigners are a rarity.  Next to the Drum Tower sits what’s known as the Hui Fang, which is essentially a neighborhood of a local Muslim ethnic minority who have lived there in Xi’an since the original Silk Road connected China with the Middle East nearly 2,000 years ago. The Hui Fang contains a large a famous street packed with nearly as many food carts and restaurants as people. Side streets veering off of the main drag have loads of shops selling various items from chopsticks to silk scarfs, a perfect place for bartering. The Xi’an city wall was especially beautiful to revisit. Surrounding all of the Old Chang’an City, the Xi’an city wall is the most well-preserved ancient military fortification in the world. The wall is absolutely stunning, and walking along it you’ll notice

Xi'an City Wall
Xi’an City Wall

both the ancient parts of Xi’an on one side of you while the modern side of the city is erected to the other. But of course, the Terracotta Soldiers were truly amazing to see again. Since I had last visited, so many more had been uncovered at the site, and it’s hard to believe they have barely scratched the surface of what was hidden under the earth over 2,000 years ago. Our last major stop in Xi’an consisted of a lecture learning about the local Hui Muslim population and visiting the Great Mosque of Xi’an, which is still used to this day by locals to pray. The site is constructed completely with Chinese architecture in mind, making it very unique for a mosque.

 

 

The Great Mosque of Xi'an
The Great Mosque of Xi’an

Next stop on the Green Line was Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and home to China’s Giant Pandas. After visiting some of the older parts of Chengdu known as the Kuanzhai Xiang, or wide and narrow alley, the day came to head towards the panda research centre and get my first glimpse of the Giant Panda. The animals were absolutely gorgeous, and so graceful. They looked as if you could just give them a big hug and take a nap with them. After that, I got the opportunity to meet a long-time pen pal of mine who happened to be studying abroad at a school in Chengdu from Portland State University. 

A few friends and I in the old town of Chengdu
A few friends and I in the old town of Chengdu

We hung out two times during my stay in the Sichuan province, and it felt like we should have been friends all these years. Our mutual interests in China and Chinese culture is sure to keep us connected into the future. Our last stop in Chengdu was an ancient dam system built nearly 3,000 years ago and still in use today, helping irrigate Sichuan Province, especially Chengdu. The complex was absolutely astounding, with high mountains and blue water rushing between them.

Lijiang Old Town
Lijiang Old Town

After Chengdu, we finally entered the Southwestern Yunnan Province, an absolutely gorgeous place bordering several Southeast Asian nations and filled to the brim with varying minority groups. Lijiang was our first stop. An ancient city with a huge, gorgeous, and well-preserved old-town, Lijiang is easily the most beautiful place I have ever seen before in my life. The old town really is ancient, many with winding canals of fresh mountain water rushing through and small, narrow streets made only for pedestrian traffic. The weather was a comfortable 70 or so degrees all day with not a spec of air pollution to be seen. Towering over Lijiang is the stunning Snow Mountain, the farthest-south snow capped mountain in the northern hemisphere. Whilst climbing the mountains near the 18,000-foot peak for a better view, we came across a small Buddhist temple home to a Lama, or Buddhist Priest.

One of my new Sichuanese friends and I
One of my new Sichuanese friends and I

After conversing with the Lama for a while and helping him translate with a few Russian tourists, he invited me to sit with him for a bit and was kind enough to give me one of his necklaces he wore free of charge. After many thanks, I took my leave. A similar interaction back in town between me and a lady from Sichuan province equally intrigued me.  Wandering to one of my favorite areas in Lijiang (a small tea shop with

Wu Palace, Lijiang
Wu Palace, Lijiang

Buddhist Temple at Snow Mountain
Buddhist Temple at Snow Mountain

some cute dogs, fish, and two peacocks) one night, I ran into two ladies coming to have tea with their old friend–the shop’s owner. After being invited to sit and have tea with them, the four of us chatted for hours and ended up making a few new friends. In the centre of the old town lies what was once the headquarters of the local Lijiang government in ancient times–the Mu Palace. The Palace rests on a hillside, and the complex has a stunning view. While exploring the palace, we came across a group of elderly women of the local Naxi people putting on quite an adorable show, dancing together for a group of people in traditional clothing. Lijiang left an incredible impression on me, solidifying itself as one of the most beautiful cities in my memory.

 

 

Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town

After Lijiang, we made our way to Dali, another Yunnan city a few hours’ drive from Lijiang. While Dali’s old town was not quite up to the level of Lijiang’s, it still was incredibly beautiful. It sit next to a massive lake, on which we took a tour cruise to small islands with various Buddhist temples. Perusing the nearby shops, it is easy to see that Dali has a lot to offer in terms of items to buy. From great snacks, gifts, and the best wine I’d ever tasted, Dali certainly has a lot to offer.

Kunming Minority Park
Kunming Minority Park

Finally, we arrived at our final destination: Kunming, the Capital of Yunnan Province. Kunming is extremely clean and beautiful, and rests next to the large Dian Lake. While visiting, we went to an ethnic minority park, which includes loads of representative villages of each minority group in Yunnan province. While the stay in Kunming was short, it certainly inspired me to go back sometime soon.

A local park in Kunming
A local park in Kunming

The study trip ended faster than it started, and we were greeted by Beijing’s pre-winter cold as soon as we walked out of the airport. Now, I await my Dutch friend (my roommate from last year at Linfield, a former exchange student) to come to Beijing in order for me to show him the wonders China has to offer. It will be a nice weekend to sit back and relax after all the chaos of travel.

 

Thanksgiving

We’ve been here in Chile for nearly four months now and I know everyone says this, but this last semester has passed more quickly than I imagined it could. To be honest, in the couple weeks leading up to my departure to Chile when I was nervous about going, I would tell myself it’s only four and a half months. I could do four and a half months, and I would be home before I knew it. And now that my time is here and that we only have two weeks left in Chile I wish I could go back to the beginning.

My friends here always ask me what I’ve liked most about Chile, and they always expect me to tell them a type of food or a trip I’ve taken but every time I say it’s been the people. The people I’ve met here in Chillán- my tutors, my classmates, my teachers, my host family(ies)- have given me a second home. I never thought it was possible to feel so at home so far away from everything I know.

My host family roasting lamb for dinner
My host family roasting lamb for dinner

The little things I’ve experienced here have been my favorites. Today after class a couple of us sat on old bleachers under the trees and just talked for two hours. My cheeks quite literally hurt from smiling and laughing so much, which I didn’t think was actually possible.

My parents and sister flew out to visit me for Thanksgiving week to bring a little U.S. tradition to my host family and a lot of joy to me. We traveled, feasted, spend some unanticipated time in the hospital, drank Chilean wine and spoke as much Spanish as we could.

My little sister Anna in Santiago de Chile
My little sister Anna in Santiago de Chile

My mom Alex, my dad Anthony, and my sister Anna in Valparaíso, Chile
My mom Alex, my dad Anthony, and my sister Anna in Valparaíso, Chile

My parents in Cobquecura, Chile
My parents in Cobquecura, Chile

Having my family and my new family around the same table for Thanksgiving dinner was a feeling I’ll never forget. I heard what everyone was grateful for in English, Spanish or a mix of the two, watched my sister Anna joke around with my host brother Gabriel, saw my Mom sitting next to Florencia and Claudia, and laughed at my dad trying to teach my host dad Pablo how to “bro hug.”

My dad and sister hard at work in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day
My dad and sister hard at work in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day

My mom, Florencia, my sister and I
My mom, Florencia, my sister and I

Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving dinner

My host dad Pablo with his kids Mateo and Laura, and I
My host dad Pablo with his kids Mateo and Laura, and I

Loving my sister time
Loving my sister time

 

These little moments are some of the most profound and unique I have experienced in my life and I know they’ll always reside close to my heart. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my ever-growing family and everything they have done for me.

So here I still am, with a heart more full than I ever imagined. I’m about to start saying a lot of goodbyes, but I have no doubt in my mind they’ll be temporary. I’ll be back to Chile, and I’ll visit my international friends in Basque Country, Spain and France. My last two weeks of the semester aren’t going to be spent traveling to see a new part of Chile. I’m going to spend them laughing with my family and friends as much as I can because in the end, that’s what’s brought me the most bliss this semester.