Ella in Buenos Aires: Easter Weekend

April 2, 2018

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Felices Pascuas from BA! This weekend was extra long because we had Thursday, Friday, and Monday off of classes. I was so surprised because at UR we don’t have any sort of break for Easter. I was hoping to run errands this weekend, but I felt like I couldn’t get anything done since so many businesses were closed for the holiday!

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It seemed like everywhere I went this weekend places were selling conejos de chocolate (chocolate bunnies) such and chocolate eggs such as these!

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This year, I was my own Easter Bunny! Here were some chocolate treats I bought myself from my favorite chocolate/ice cream place Rapanui. The chocolate eggs were filled with m&m’s and smaller chocolate eggs which I thought was amazing.

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Families filled the parks this holiday weekend. I saw so many parents relaxing on picnic blankets while kids ran around with a soccer ball or played with their dogs. Even though we’re a few weeks into fall, the warm weather makes it still feel like summer.

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Earlier this week, my friend and I went to an exchange student celebration! It included a ton of different activities such as bubble soccer, slacklining, soccer tennis, live music, and a polo match to watch! We had a great time meeting a bunch of other exchange students from all over the world.

Ciao for now!

Ella


Ella in Buenos Aires: A Week in Patagonia

March 19, 2018

This past week, my new Canadian friend and I took off to go hiking in Argentinian Patagonia. This is the most southern part of Argentina, the Santa Cruz province. We decided to visit the city of El Calafate, located right next to the Lago Argentino and the village of El Chaltén within El Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

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This was the first place we went in El Calafate. This glacier is called Glaciar Perito Moreno and is one of the world’s only glaciers that is actually getting bigger, not shrinking. It was incredible to see the pieces falling off of it– each one made a huge booming sound as it crashed into the water. It was absolutely breathtaking, the photo doesn’t do it justice!

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Here was the best breakfasts we had at one of our hostels. It really hit the spot and helped recover us from long hours of hiking the previous day.

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As we arrived in El Chaltén, it was super rainy. We didn’t have the greatest weather, but we made the best of it! This village lies at the base of so many hiking trails up to and around the mountains Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy.

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One hike that we did lasted 8 hours. It was incredibly difficult towards the end and our legs were shaking as we came down the mountain, but it was definitely worth it! We saw the most incredible views.

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This was at the top of our longest hike, called the Laguna de los Tres. The mountain was a little obscured at the top, but it was still so spectacular to see up close. We hiked through water, mud, and snow to get there!

This coming week my classes are officially starting, and I’m so excited to finally have a concrete schedule.

See you next week!

Ella

 


Ella in Buenos Aires: Exploring BA

February 25, 2018

This week I took some time to walk around the city and explore. I’m feeling more and more at home every day. It really helps to walk around the different neighborhoods and start to get a feel for where everything is. People are always talking to each other on the street and always talking to me! Being so immersed in the language, I feel like my Spanish is improving exponentially. However, when people speak in slang or just talk really fast I can’t catch everything. Usually I just nod and don’t let on that I don’t understand everything they are saying!

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This is the area that I think I’ve heard people call “El centro.” There’s cool places to walk around, restaurants, and shopping near here! Also, it’s super close to my university, UCA.

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The “Pink House” is the Argentine version of the White House! It’s in el centro as well, and right next to the subway stop I use to get to school so I get to walk past it every day! Right now, they are re-doing the plaza that’s in front of the pink house, so there’s a lot of construction everywhere. I hope they finish it while I am still in Buenos Aires so I get to see the final product!

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I did some exploring around the Recoleta this week as well, which is the area where I live. It is so pretty with tons of parks, restaurants, a couple malls, and an old cemetery in the middle! The restaurants are my favorite, they are all so cute and well-decorated. These ones are on a huge patio at a mall called Buenos Aires Design. I love the string lights that are always lit up at night!

I’m excited for my last week of Spanish classes, my semester is starting so soon!

See you next week!

Ella


Ella in Buenos Aires: Summer in the City

February 21, 2018

Finally, I have arrived in Argentina and started my semester. It is so crazy that in less than a day I’ve gone from snow-covered Minneapolis to the incredibly hot and humid Buenos Aires where it is close to 90°F every day! This city is truly overwhelming. Everything is happening so quickly, people always seem to be hurrying from one place to another. So far, I have bought an Argentine SIM card so that I can use my phone here  and I have learned how to use the colectivos (public buses) to get to my university. I feel pretty accomplished just to have completed these basic tasks!

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My host mom’s apartment is so cute. Here’s her little balcony!

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Yesterday my Spanish class got to go on a tour of Teatro Colón. Our Spanish class got to take a tour of the theater, and we learned so much about its rich history. Though it is now almost 110 years old, it is still considered one of the finest theaters in the world. The tour guide spoke to the incredible acoustics inside the main stage.

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Here’s another part of the theater where the guests with the most expensive tickets would mingle. My favorite part of the theater was the fancy light fixtures that were in every room as you can see in this photo. While we were exploring this room, we learned that the theater took 20 years to build, and the creators had both Italian as well as French influences, and imported the valuable materials they used such as marble and gold from these places. This eclectic European style made me feel like I was inside a castle!

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The sun was setting by the time we were done with our tour. Another beautiful summer day in Buenos Aires!

See you next week!

Ella

 

 

 


Jeanette in Morocco: A Weekend in Chefchaouen

December 8, 2017

Chefchaouen, known as “the Blue City,” is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Morocco. However, if you want to escape the city for a bit, less than an hour away lies the Akchour Cascades. It’s about a four hour hike with beautiful waterfalls and bouldering paths along the way. Here’s a short travel film of my trip with some friends there last weekend!

 

 

 


Naomi at Akita Week 8: UNI-eed to read this

October 27, 2016

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Who has the bluest hair? Patrik and Isabella have a competition going on and Isabella is winning as of now. I don’t know why but in this picture, Patrik’s hair actually looks pretty blue compared to Isabella’s but in real life, Isabella’s is much darker. They have both dyed their hair twice in Akita. They both brought dye from back home…dedication, huh? Every time they see each other, the blue hair is mentioned at some point. You can hear Patrik’s heart break a little each time someone tells him Isabella’s hair is bluer. Lots of people on campus think they’re a couple too. It’s a great time.

I asked my mom to send me my heat techs (clothes from Uniqlo meant to keep you warm) that I left at home so she ended up sending an actual care package full of American and Okinawan snacks. I shared some with my friends. Well, mostly American friends and they were all excited and nostalgic with the taste of fruit rollups. There’s a picture of Tristan putting the fruit rollup tattoo onto his tongue! I don’t know why my mom sent me a package of fruit rollups because I never ate them growing up as a kid…she probably sent it because of the Halloween packaging. She also sent me a huge 240-piece bag of assorted chocolates – Milky Way, Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and Twix. Too much candy.

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Over the weekend, our school set up another bus trip for us to the Oga Peninsula. We headed to the GAO Aquarium first. We could see the ocean and it was absolutely beautiful. I missed hearing the waves crash. Anyways, the aquarium also had some animals, in addition to all the fish, frogs, jellyfish, and eels. It was Patrik’s first time seeing a polar bear and penguins! There were seals awkwardly floating in the water. They looked like grandpas; it was so kawaii (cute in Japanese). There was also an exhibit with the fish that eat at your dead skin cells. The fish were in this container that had holes where you could stick you finger in so I did it and it felt…funny? The fish were nibbling away on my fingers. I bet if I stuck my foot in the container I would’ve never stopped laughing because of how ticklish it can feel. We also saw a vending machine that sold solely food and it was weird, as the food included hot dogs and takoyaki. Japan really gets invested in their vending machines. You can’t go 100 meters without seeing at least 3 vending machines. That’s not an exaggeration.

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Really quick, there was a room with tanks on the side of different types of fish. In the middle, there was a big cage with two turtles in it. Isabella and I didn’t pay attention to what was in the cage because nothing was moving so we just went straight to the tanks. However, right as we were leaving the room we noticed the turtles inside the cage. It wasn’t moving at all. It was completely still. We both started staring at the turtle wondering if it was a toy. As we were staring, Isabella asked, “Is it real?” and RIGHT after she asked that question, the turtle blinked. Needless to say, we both freaked out and yelled a bit.

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After the aquarium, we headed to Nyudozaki Cape, the northernmost cape on the Oga Peninsula, for lunch. All the food was too expensive for us college students, so we ended up just exploring the lighthouse and the ocean near the restaurants. Thankfully we stopped at a grocery store before the aquarium so we weren’t that hungry. The picture of the menu shows a picture of a bowl of rice topped with uni (sea urchin). I took a picture to send to my mom since she loves uni so much. I’m not a picky eater; I eat everything, but the only thing I cannot eat is uni. My mom plans on visiting me at the end of November and I’m sure she’s going to want to go to this cape solely to eat that bowl of uni. Delicious.

I tried taking a picture of Annabelle, Isabella, Tristan, and Patrik jumping but they could never get it together. Someone was always still on the ground. Tristan didn’t jump in one of the pictures. I ended up giving up and going to the coast. We found some stairs, stairs as in a bunch of rocks lined up, which led down to the ocean. There were a bunch of hermit crabs crawling in the water and a couple of small fish swimming around. We jumped from rock to rock to get deeper into the ocean. It wasn’t too cold, the wind felt nice against our faces, and the sound of the waves was relaxing. I can’t tell you how much I missed the ocean.

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After the cape, we went to the Namahage Museum and Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum. There’s a story titled the Legend of Namahage: The 999 Steps. The Han emperor brought five demonic ogres with him to Japan that constantly stole crops and young maidens from the villages. The villagers decided to trick the oni (ogres) with a proposal. The villagers commanded the oni to build one thousand steps to the Goshado Shrine in a single night, if they could then the maidens would be offered to them, if not then they would have to flee the village. The oni made it to 999 steps before a villager mimicked the crowing of a rooster, making the oni believe it was the morning. They ended up running away in panic. We actually watched a short performance on the banter between the Namahage (oni) and the household head. Although we didn’t understand much of what was said, we found the Namahage to be hilarious with their sluggish/deep yelling. After the show, we walked around the Namahage Museum filled with costumes and demonic masks. We even saw a man carving the masks by hand!

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The last place we visited was Mountain Kampuzan. There was a rotating observation deck at the peak of the mountain but we had to pay 540 yen. No one ended up going on it because the view was already beautiful enough. There was some performance going down below and you could hear someone banging away at the drums. It was a nice way to end our day trip. Once we got back on campus, everyone was too tired to do anything, despite it being a Saturday night. I pushed myself to finally do my load of laundry that I’ve held off for the past week. Isabella ended up cooking pasta for us so I didn’t have to worry about making my own dinner. She was worried the garlic red sauce tasted like seafood but it tasted just fine. We ended up watching Friends afterwards and called it a night.

 

 

 


Naomi at Akita Week 7: 肉人参

October 24, 2016

On Thursday, Patrick and I decided to go on a walk since I was stood up for my date. Just kidding, not date. I’m an LDIC (Language Development and Intercultural Studies Center) conversation leader. The LDIC is a self-directed language-learning center that provides several resources for students trying to learn a new language. They provide several computers and you can check out movies or TV shows. For example, they offer the entire series of Friends with subtitles for any student trying to learn English (I love Friends). I volunteer through the Foreign Language Conversation Support meaning any student can sign up with me to talk about anything in order to improve their English speaking skills. I had two appointments and my first one didn’t show up so Patrick and I went for a short walk before my next appointment. It was such a beautiful day but, unfortunately, our walk lasted only 20 minutes. Patrick asked to borrow my earphones so he could listen to music and continue walking while I headed back to the LDIC for my next appointment. You wouldn’t believe this but my second appointment didn’t show up either…いいね〜

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This weekend, my high school friend from Okinawa visited me. Her name is Ami and she’s currently a senior at Osaka International School. She arrived Friday afternoon, so we both ate lunch at the school cafeteria then went on a walk to a shrine near campus. Unfortunately, it was raining but we took some umbrellas from Komachi lobby (one of the dorm buildings) and headed over. The shrine seemed randomly place and was very secluded. We had to walk up several stairs just to get to it. Ami and I bowed at the entrance, gave money to the shrine, clapped our hands twice, and prayed for a bit. Afterwards, we headed back to campus and took the bus to AEON mall. We shopped for a bit before Patrik joined us. He was very enthusiastic about going to the arcade and finding Dance Dance Revolution. I didn’t think they would have it but we ended up finding it and “dancing” for a bit. Ami played once and refused to continue so Patrik and I finished up our turns then we all headed to dinner. I forgot the name of the restaurant but wow…the food was delicious. Ami speaks Japanese fluently and knows the dialects of both Okinawa and Osaka so we talked about that for a bit, as Patrik was very interested. Ami actually thought the way people speak in Akita was very weird; apparently, understanding people with an Akita dialect is difficult for people outside of the prefecture.

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On Saturday, we headed to a beer festival in the city. We took the bus from campus to Wada Station then the train from Wada to Akita. On the train, Ami interviewed Patrik for her article. She writes for her school newspaper and wanted to write about her visit to our school. While she was doing that, everyone was staring out the window at the passing rice fields and I was playing Sudoku on my phone. We actually ended up skipping on the festival because it was very small and expensive and instead we just hung out at different spots in the city. For lunch, we went to Lawson’s (convenience store) and bought riceballs/steamed buns/ramen. It’s common for people to buy cup noodles and eat it right there. Lawson’s actually provides hot water for you, so Ami ate her noodles on the street while we were all talking and hanging out.

On our way back to campus after hanging out in the city, we had an hour at Wada station till the bus arrived. So, naturally, we had a photo shoot…meaning, I took several pictures of Ami while everyone else sat on the side and snacked on pizza flavored chips. These are some of the pictures I snapped. She looks like a monkey in the one of her hanging off the pole. We ended up playing music out loud and dancing freely since there was no one in sight.

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I forgot to take a picture so I had to screenshot from Isabella’s snapchat story but later that night, Isabella invited us over for dinner. She made 肉じゃが (nikujaga) and we ate it with rice; it was her first time making it but it turned out amazing. Nikujaga literally means meat and potatoes; this is a common Japanese dish of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and konnyaku noodles. Isabella only had two potatoes left so she actually apologized to us because it was more of 肉人参 (nikuninjin), as in meat and carrots.

Sunday was Ami’s last day so we woke up early before she had to head to the airport at 12pm. We woke up and immediately went for a walk around the park near campus before even changing out of our PJs. She has a set pair from Uniqlo and I thought it was the cutest thing. She only brought one pair of socks with her (she forgot apparently), so she had to wear my socks. She also stole my shoes that morning so she was pulling off the typical Naomi look, as in mismatching with the striped socks and checkerboard shoes. Ami said it felt like Christmas with all of the green trees and her red PJs, so she ended up playing Christmas music; Mistletoe by Justin Bieber was played. Afterwards, we headed back to my apartment to change and went straight to the convenience store near campus to buy breakfast. Then, I gave her a tour of the campus. It took less than half an hour, as AIU’s campus is very small. She was mostly impressed with Nakajima Library, as is everyone. Our library was actually voted to be one of the nicest libraries in Japan, I believe. Whenever our school is written about in an article or posted in a handout, our library is always shown because of how beautiful it is. After the tour, my friend Toshi took us to the airport. Ami bought some お土産 (souvenirs) for her family and friends back in Osaka. I wasn’t too upset when I said bye to her because I plan on visiting her in Osaka one weekend before the end of my study abroad.

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After dropping Ami off at the airport, Patrik decided that we should go on a walk to another shrine near campus. Instead of a 20-minute walk, like the shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was a 55-minute walk away. We had no plans for the day and it was so beautiful outside so it was no problem. We walked through villages that were completely surrounded by trees and rice fields. There were several elderly people working in the fields and in their gardens. We saw two older men stacking huge bags of something (we couldn’t figure out what it was) and Patrik went up to them and asked if he could take a picture in their tractor. He’s not shy at all! When we finally made it to the shrine we gave some money and clapped our hands twice then prayed. The name of the shrine was八幡神社 and, unlike the other shrine I went to with Ami, this shrine was right next to the road and not as secluded. After our visit to the shrine, Patrik told me there was a river near us so we walked even further. The water was so peaceful. We saw someone canoeing in the distance. Also, while walking near the river, we both looked up and saw at least…AT LEAST 100 dragonflies just swarming around; I’m not exaggerating. After the river, Patrik said there was a temple nearby as well, so we walked even further than intended. On our way back to campus, instead of walking on the sidewalk near the streets, we walked on the pathways in the fields (there was a lot of poop). Our walk ended up being four hours and we got back on campus as the sun had set. It was a good time but our weekend ended with us heading to the library to work on our 作文 – essay for Japanese class about the AIU festival last weekend.

 


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