Clara in Italy: A Concert at an Agriturismo

December 15, 2016

It’s not exactly Italian, but earlier on in the semester, I got to go to a little indie underground (like, super underground. If you didn’t have insider information that this was happening you wouldn’t have any idea it happened at all sort of underground) concert at this guy’s house/farm/concert hall/????. Dino’s place defies description. He has a lot of gnarly olive trees, three donkeys, and an absolutely absurd number of beds. Here’s a terrible photo of his fireplace area:

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And here he is, pre-concert at the massive dinner he cooked himself:

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He’s the dude standing in the brown sweater and the flyaway grey-white hair. Very eccentric and very nice.  Unfortunately, because the place had terrible lighting (seriously terrible), I only have a few not-so-great photos of the event. Here’s another of Dino, introducing the main acts.

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Very lopsided and blurry, sorry. But hey, anyways, who was playing anyways?

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Kelly Halloran and Rachael Sage! Kelly used to WWOOF for Dino some years ago, so that’s how she knew him. They’re also both American, which was kind of funny since we were in a weird underground Italian farm place in the middle of nowhere. Literally, there’s no address. He lives on an unnamed road off another road that has barely any streetlights. It’s not hard to get to, just… terrifying. At night. By yourself. (I went a lot.) Also, unseen dogs will bark aggressively at you from their yards.

Kelly opened the show with a few songs on guitar and fiddle, and let me tell you, her fiddling is bomb my friends. Super bomb. I wish she had played more songs haha. Oh well.

The she and Rachael played for a set, and then the whole thing repeated.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for the semi acceptable photos I managed to get. 😦 The lighting, as aforementioned, was terrible. There was only light on stage left, so Kelly was in darkness for a lot of the show, and I was sitting far back and trying to shoot between some a lot of people in front of me. The woes of being short and socially anxious!

But anyways, thought I’d leave you with some videos of the two of them from youtube that I found. Here’s Kelly with a different band:

And here’s Rachael and Kelly together:

Admittedly with another dude and with a significantly different vibe from when we saw them, but I thought this was one of the better songs in the set we heard. 🙂 Stay determined!


Jack in NZ: Alkaline

November 21, 2016

“Don’t feel bad for me. I think I’m, like, so pretty.”

“I am a hot-blooded fire and I am fearless.”

“It’s been a life-altering year. But I guess every year for everyone is a life-altering year.”

– Amy Schumer

After literal weeks of trying to come up with a post-abroad blog post, I’m taking my second copout. I’m still trying to make sense of the whole semester and tie a pretty little literary bow on the whole thing. Rest assured, it’s coming. But in the meantime, I need to publish something. And I’m running out of forms to experiment with. The one, of course, that I haven’t touched, is the blandly positive stereotypical travel blog. I’ve resisted this one all semester, agonizing over my posts, trying as best as I can to make something meaningful that I can be proud of. Now, I relent.

And my goodness was it enjoyable. There’s no literary risk involved, just relating my experience as simply as possible. No flourish, nothing over which to feel self conscious, nothing over which to agonize. It was easy, it was fun, it was positive.

And here I think lies the first lesson I’ve learned while abroad: basic stuff is kind of fun. Polo shirts are comfortable, Ke$ha is talented, Amy Schumer is funny. And more importantly, the people who like these things aren’t suffering from some sort of aesthetic-appreciation affliction, they’re just people, enjoying what life has to offer.

This is the Katy Perry of my blog posts, my Abercrombie, my Kevin Hart. And while any respectable critic would (rightly) dump on it, it’s upbeat and it’s fun and it’s positive, and who wants to disparage that?

Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean other people can’t enjoy it:

Finals were kind of hard. I had to cram for them in the two days before I took them because I procrastinated studying for basically the entire semester. My first final was for my environmental chemistry class. Because I did pretty well on my course assignments (my labs and homeworks and stuff), I only needed a 28% on the final to pass the class and get credit for the course. The format of the test allocated 20% of the possible points to each of the five sections of the class. Instead of studying all the material, I concentrated on the two sections I had taken notes on at the beginning of the year, because I thought that was a more efficient use of my time. When I got to the exam, I was relieved to see that the questions for those two sections represented what I had studied pretty well. I was even able to do some of the questions in other sections, because the chemistry involved was relatively simple and the problems didn’t require the specific knowledge I neglected while studying. I was confident I got the score I needed, and I even got to leave the exam a little bit early. What a relief!

After I took my environmental chemistry exam, I headed back home to relax for a little bit and have a cup of coffee before diving into the study materials for my conservation biology class. For this test, I needed to get about a 50% to pass, so the stakes were much higher. I studied for a few hours, and mostly concentrated on big picture conservation priorities, as well as something called PVA. PVA stands for population viability analysis, and I knew there was going to be a question about it on the exam, so I studied it extra hard. I went to bed pretty early, so I could get a jump on studying before I took the exam the next afternoon.

The next day I woke up and went to the library. I managed to find a desk, and my friend Amy came to join me. Amy was in the same class as me and we helped each other study. Thanks Amy!

After reviewing our notes for a while, it was time to take the test. Now, I should mention, the university where I studied releases past exams, so students have a rough idea of what the questions will be. Every year the last three questions are pretty much the same (there’s one for each of the major sections of the course), which makes it easy to study for the exam, but the first question has more variation. The previous exams had first questions that were mostly about how to prioritize protected areas for animals. Because we really focused on marine protected areas in class, I was pretty sure that the question would be about them. There were also questions on what to do about specific conservation problems, like an oil spill, or what to do about the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. I thought (because they used the penguin question last year), there was no way they would use it again this year, so I didn’t really study for it.

Boy was that a mistake! When I opened up the exam, the first question was about the cheeky aquatic birds. Oops! Thankfully (because I did a lab report on the big problems facing the species), I was able to do well enough on the question. I also was able to answer the PVA question pretty well, all my studying sure paid off!

The last question was about how to attract local species to a town. I don’t think I did so well on that one. I knew the ‘what to do’, but I don’t think I explained the ‘why to do it’ enough. Hopefully I’ll get a good enough grade to pass!

Finals were pretty stressful, but after I finished I felt so good. I packed up all the stuff in my room, and gave away the things I couldn’t take with me. Then I made a tasty dinner with a steak from my freezer I’d been procrastinating cooking for a few months. It was a great last meal.
Then I bought some nice New Zealand craft beers from my local shop, and went to hang out with the best friends I made while abroad.

We didn’t do very much. I played a game of chess with my friend Noah, and talked with Amy and Sarah. We drank the beers and ate ice cream and had a relaxing time. I left around midnight after hugging them each goodbye and promising to stay in touch. That should be pretty easy with Amy and Sarah because they both go to Richmond. For Noah it will be more difficult, he goes to school up in Boston. We both said we might visit each other’s schools, but we didn’t make any firm plans. I went to bed feeling pretty excited for my trip the next day.

I had to get up really early to catch the airport shuttle, but it was worth it. All my transfers went smoothly and I was on the plane to Singapore in no time.

So long New Zealand! You were OMFG awesome!


Week 11: Crepes and Kraft Mac & Cheese

November 14, 2016

1I appreciate Patrik so much. I’m so used to drinking five cups of coffee at Richmond because it’s so easily accessible so I appreciate Patrik letting me make coffee in his room. I was having a hard time staying up in my International Trade class so Patrik brought me a cup of coffee during my class break, before my History of Pre-Modern Japan class. やさしいね〜 (he’s very kind, huh?)!

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Isabella and Annabelle finished writing their speech about their Korean trip for JPL100 and I finished my grammar homework for JPL300 and this was the outcome. We were all very tired so we continued to hang out in Annabelle’s room in Sakura Village. I was also messing with my camera a bit. Trying new lightings and what not.


Do you all remember the Draw Something app that came out maybe…four years ago? Well, Griff, Patrik, and I were hanging out in the Komachi Lobby and rediscovered the game. Some of our other friends joined in and we soon found out that Griff is actually Picasso. How do you even draw that nice of a toilet and blender? I want his drawing skills.

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Griff even drew me…I don’t have a neck but it’s still a pretty good drawing considering he drew me with only his index finger on his small screen.


We had our first snow this past week. I still can’t believe the snow stuck. It’s only the beginning of November. I woke up and heard the hail hitting the ground and immediately fell back into bed…very unwilling to walk outside in the cold. Thankfully I bought a winter jacket from UNIQLO though and it actually keeps me very warm. Now I have to buy some snow boots though or else I’m going to injure myself.

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Saturday, a group of us took the bus to AEON to eat lunch then walked over to Yotsugoya station to head into Akita City. I had the directions up on Google maps but closed the app when I realized where the train station was…you could see it in the distance. Unfortunately, the rode split into two and we didn’t know which road to take. Everyone yelled at me for closing the app then proceeded to split up. Patrik, Griff, and I walked on a path that led into the fields while Isabella, Annabell, and Tristan took the actual road. We ended up meeting up five minutes later as the roads met up! We made it to the station five minutes to spare before the train arrived.


You wouldn’t believe this but we actually ended up getting on the wrong train. It took us in the opposite direction. That’s the life of AIU international students: reading the schedule wrong and getting on the wrong train/bus. The train took us to Wada Station so we had to wait there for an hour before the train came to take us to Akita. It was fine though. We listened to some music on Patrik’s speakers and took a couple videos of us doing the mannequin challenge. If you don’t know what it is just look it up online and it should pop up as it’s trending right now. We had to retake one shot at least 10 times because I couldn’t stop laughing. Anyways, we went into the city and went to Karaoke for about 3-4 hours. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures but just know we sang our hearts out to 80s music and Michael Jackson songs. We took the last train from Akita to Wada Station and walked for an hour back to campus.

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I’m super proud of all of my friends for expanding their collection of beer stickers. Most of the time Japanese beer cans have a sticker on them so I decided to start collecting them on my phone. When I got to Akita, I influenced people to start collecting the stickers as well. Everyone has more than me now though and it’s upsetting. I took off all of my stickers recently so I have 0…


Sunday afternoon, everyone came to Isabella’s apartment to make crepes. Griff and Patrik had been planning this out for about two weeks now. It was originally supposed to be pancake day but Griff told us that the pancakes wouldn’t be as good without baking powder, so crepes it was. Patrik went all out and bought whipped cream, chocolate sauce, strawberry jam, canned peaches, and canned pineapples for the crepe toppings. We didn’t have a whisk so Griff, Annabelle, and Patrik stirred as fast and hard as they could with the forks and chopsticks. It was pretty intense.

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I FaceTimed my mom asking for help on how to make the whipped cream since none of us could read the directions. She told me that we needed a whisk or else it would be very difficult to make. So, Patrik actually ended up running to the Komachi kitchen and finding a whisk. The whipped cream was almost impossible to make with just a fork. Kevin had been stirring it for about 20 minutes and the consistency was still very liquid. Tristan took the whisk and stirred for only about 5 minutes before it turned to actual whipped cream.

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We actually had a can opener but I guess it didn’t work out too well…I turned my back to help Isabella with the crepes and by the time I was done the can was opened like this. Super dangerous…we should probably invest in a nice can opener.

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The first one was pretty rough but Isabella looked up a tutorial on YouTube and after that the crepes came out perfect. Patrik sprinkled some brown sugar on his crepe. He had the first one and Kevin commented on the placement of the whipped cream. All of us put our whipped cream inside the crepe and Patrik found it super weird. I guess that’s just a minor culture difference in the way we make crepes. Everyone had 1-2 crepes and we were still very hungry so Isabella ended up making some Kraft Mac and Cheese that my mom sent me recently. Eating American food was a nice change. My mom is visiting at the end of this month so I’m going to have to ask her to bring some more mac and cheese with her!


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