GETTING READY FOR YOUR TRIP!!!!

ADVICE try to pack clothes that you do not want to use anymore, so you can leave there and have more space in your luggage (I wish I would’d done this).

You are going to get a packing list, and I going to tell you what I use and what I did not.

  • Definitely you need more than $200. There are amazing things you want to bring back home, and sometimes it gets really difficult to get money out + you want to save the extra charges that some banks have for using your card in a different country.
  • Knowing the India currency or the currency of any other country it is very important and interesting!
  • Money belt (never used it). I have a small security purse that REI sells, and you can safely keep your more and other stuff in there. $65
  • ALWAYS BRING BACKUP DOCUMENTS; copy of your passport, insurance, the card you are taking, and your airline itinerary.
  • Mosquito net (never used it).
  • 1 pair of comfortable shoes or sandals. I used sandals of the time because of the heat. We did not walk too much, so they were perfect.
  • 1 pair of flip flops for showering. I did not bring them and did not need them. The showers at the places we stayed were very decent.
  • CLOTHES like I said bring the clothes you do not want. Bring something that you are comfortable and fresh, the heat makes you really tired. Bring something nice for a night out. Extra t-shirts!!
  • The first week was a little cold, so bring something light but warm (most of us were not ready for the cold).
  • Socks (never used it) 1 pair is enough.
  • UNDERWEAR, I brought underwear for every single day because I do not feel comfortable somebody washing my underwear, and because I did not know who I would be sharing the room with. Days were really long and sometimes you did not have time for small things like this, and I had to share the room with the boys. I am so happy I had underwear for every single day! My girl roommate regret not doing it.
  • Pijamas
  • I brought my own, but each place had clean towels. You can save some space here.
  • Camera OF COURSE!!
  • Ziploc bags, I never used them, but it is important to have some just in case.
  • Tissues, disposable wet wipes YES!!! I brought 1 roll of toilet paper which was really important. I bought small wipes to carry with me all the time and a big package that I left at the hotel (Used them all).
  • A thin collapsible duffer if you plan to purchase souvenirs. If I was you I would just leave all the clothes I do not want and put everything in your luggage, that way you are more comfortable on your way back. Many of us did not have the space, and it was very uncomfortable to travel with so many things.
  • Facial care (sunscreen)
  • Personal care (dental, hair,eye body) HAND SANITIZER, DEODORANT, RAZOR, INSENT REPELENT
  • Over the counter drugs. PLEASE bring something for a cold or cough, I got some kind of cold and had nothing for it.

       TAKE THEM ALL, YOU NEED TO BE READY!

Under the counter medicine

  • Vitamin C
  • Dramamine $7.89
  • Melatonin $6.57 (jet-lag) (if you have never taken this before buy the 3mg).
  • Alka-seltzer $6.29
  • Pepto-Bismol $6.29
  • Imodium $9.49
  • Ibuprofen
  • Earplugs and eye cover (optional). I did not bring any, plus the airline (EMIRATES) gave us earplugs and eye covers.
  • DO NOT BUY THE ONE IN MARSHALLS IT DOES NOT WORK EVERYWHERE!
  • Map of India (YOU DO NOT NEED IT!). $15
  • Sense of humor and flexibility (bring extra of those).
  • Bring your own snacks!! The time between meals it’s a little long

    This is the one you should get!!

This should be part of your kit. I took the picture because when I went I had a hard time, so if you do too you can just look at the picture and i will be easier to find them.

Before Your Trip

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).

Interview…

For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed….and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!

Visa

If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:

  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport

I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.

These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:

  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!

…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!

IMMUNIZATIONS

DO NOT WAIT TILL LAST MINUTE…

Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).

Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102

For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.

DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

Process Before Your Trip

Blog By Lorena Andrea Marulanda, Community Psychology, Gender, Culture and Human Rights in India

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).

Interview…

For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed…

…and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!

 

Visa

If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:

 

  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport

 

I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.

 

These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:

 

  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!

 

…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!

IMMUNIZATIONS

DO NOT WAIT TILL LAST MINUTE…

Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).

 

Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102

 

For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.

 

DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

Tips and reminders

I have now been in London for roughly two weeks and have learned quite a lot. Here are a few things that I think newbies should know in the first several days in London:

Stand on the right- The tube is your best friend and you will learn how it works almost immediately. For those of you who aren’t in a rush and would like to stand on escalators, stand on the right side! This will allow the other people who are walking/running up and down the escalators some space for them to do so. If you’re standing on the left side, someone will sometimes kindly ask you to move over.

British people drive on the wrong side- You’ve grown up to look both ways before crossing the street, but in London, triple check both ways before crossing the street especially if you are impatient and don’t want to wait for the little green man to signal you to cross. Vehicles have the right of way and it will basically be the pedestrian’s fault most of the time. In case you forget which way to look for incoming traffic, look down.

Be aware- Londoners are constantly on the move. Everyone walks so fast and always seem to be in a rush. If you’re not in a rush, continue to be aware of your surroundings and watch where you’re going. As far as accidentally bumping into people, they are mostly nice about it. Just apologize and everything will be fine. Other than that, try to keep up with the crowd and be confident in what you decide to do. It will definitely be scary at first, but once you get the hang of the tube and walking on major streets, it’ll be easy! Tip: since you will be walking a lot, remember to stay hydrated! Keep a bottle of water with you so you can sip on it throughout the day. Walking around all day is tiring and sometimes the tube gets warm.

Layer up!- One thing that made me feel like I was still back in Seattle is the weather. London is practically the Seattle of England, and if you’ve lived in Seattle long enough, you will know that the weather is unpredictable. So far, it hasn’t been that bad, but there were a couple of days where I wished I had another jacket. It could be cold and windy in the morning, then by mid-afternoon, you could be sweating because the clouds have gone away and the sun is beaming down on you. Even if you check the weather the night before, check it again in the morning because it would have most likely changed.

Since we’re on the topic of clothes…- London is a fashionable city, therefore, you will see most of the people walking down the streets a bit “dressed up” than what you’re used to. As a college student back home, I am all about comfort. I live in my leggings and hoodies, but you will never see any Londoner wear that in public. With this being said, use this opportunity to dress yourself up and strut down the streets of London! A lot of their clothes are simple, yet well put together. I brought a lot of basic, solid color tops, along with a few pairs of jeans and leggings with me on this trip. Even if you have a cute trench coat, blazer or parka, it will definitely dress up your outfit.

No snacking!- On the second day of orientation, one of my British professors told us that we will never hear the refrigerator door open and close throughout the day because British people don’t snack, unlike us Americans. We had to get used to eating only three meals a day, which I’m still struggling with. Back home, I normally pack snacks to class and eat throughout the day. Over here, you won’t see anyone pull out a granola bar in the middle of the day. I couldn’t help but buy snacks at a nearby grocery store so I can stick to my “bad habit,” but we’ll see if I can only eat three meals a day, haha.

HAVE FUN- Yes, cliche, I know. YOU ARE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. Also, yes, if you are reading this post then you will most likely be interested in a study abroad program which means dun dun dun, you’ll still be a UW student taking classes in another country. Even if you’re in a place for school, that’s only a fraction of the experience. Use this opportunity to explore your environment and try new things. It will be scary, but you will never know until you try, and you definitely don’t want to regret anything. It might be a long time before you’re in Europe, or wherever else besides America, again, so travel around to nearby countries for the weekend with a couple of friends and have fun!


I might do similar posts in the future since I am sure I will learn a lot more things these next several weeks and I am glad to share tips and tricks. Keep an eye out for that!

Until next time,

Brittney Phanivong

 

 

 

Arriving in London!

Blog By Brittney Phanivong, Science Technology and Society, English London: Spring in London

The worst part of traveling for me is the plane ride. But views like this make me feel better. It was so beautiful up in the air, which made me even more excited to reach the ground again. My plane landed around 9:30am on Wednesday March 22, 2017. Going through passport control took awhile, but after I reached an officer, he didn’t interrogate me as much as what I’ve heard from other people. He asked what brings me to the UK, and I told him I am here for a study abroad program. He asked for my paperwork (which was given during our study abroad meeting back in Seattle, so it’s important that you don’t lose them!), then it was awkwardly quiet while he read the letters and tried to find a stamp to stamp my passport. Once I was good to go, I went to claim my baggage, then met up with one of my flatmates, Hailey, who arrived from Portugal. We were both starving so we stopped by a cafe in the airport called Costa and ate sandwiches. After our stomachs settled, we both freshened up because believe me, after staying on a plane for several hours, you are going to want to wash your face, brush your teeth and possibly change clothes (specifically, undergarments).

London has a significantly better transportation system than back home in Seattle, so it was fairly easy to hop on a train from the airport to King’s Cross, and ride the underground to the closest station to our homestay. It was super nice for our homestay’s mum’s partner, Claudio, to pick us up from the tube station. He was so nice and friendly, and when we got to the house, we met his nephew, Clemente, who was also very kind. Clemente and Claudio showed us to where we will be living, which is in a large attic room where there were three beds and a couple of desks and chairs. I am roommates with three other people: Hailey, Mira, and Kaden. Kaden has his own small room near our large room. Once Hailey and I settled in, I took a well needed shower and then took a nap. The nap that I took was way longer than I wanted it to be, but when I woke up, there was sad news. I received several concerned messages from my friends and family because there was a terror attack at the Westminster Bridge in London. It was terribly sad that this event occurred. My prayers and thoughts are with all those affected by this attack today. It was definitely a scare for some of my loved ones because I wasn’t responding to their messages as fast as I could because I was asleep. But everything is okay with me, I am safe and unharmed!

Tomorrow is our first day of orientation, which means I have to wake up fairly early just to give myself some time to travel to central London to the place I will be meeting the rest of the students from the program. I am incredibly excited and I will update you all about the rest of my week soon!

Roma Culture and Discrimination in Greece

The past week has been one of the most academically and emotionally challenging weeks of my life.  Monday through Thursday were packed with a full daily agenda that included debriefs, interviews, visits, discussions and mediation.  We spoke with lawyers, government officials, police chiefs, prosecutors, business owners, teachers and professors from the non-Roma community.  We also spoke with Roma from the Roma Association in Nafplio and a Roma camp near Athens.

As our study of discrimination got started with a seminar at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies the previous Friday, I became concerned that we may not hear from the Roma side at all.  The speakers were from the local non-Roma community and painted a picture of the Roma that made them sound like they wanted nothing to do anyone outside of their community.  Indeed, it was unclear from our program director how much time we would be spending with the Roma or if we would hear from them at all.

The voices we heard described the Roma as coming from a culture very different than what the non-Roma Greeks and other Western societies were used to.  Stealing was described as part of their culture, as was not wearing shoes and living in tents.  Some speakers went so far as to claim that the Roma had tons of money and received additional funding from the government.  It was hard to believe what they were telling us, and the story got odder and odder with each speaker.  There was even talk of child abuse: not letting children go to school, not giving them proper clothing and health care, etc.  These discussions left me perturbed with the entire program, I didn’t want to come here and change their culture.  Furthermore, I didn’t want to meddle in their affairs uninvited.  If they didn’t want to see me, who am I to barge in?

Toward the end of the week, we began hearing the other side of the story and learning that a lot of what we heard previously was either entirely or at least partially untrue.  I was reminded of the current ‘Fake News’ epidemic in America.  We went to schools that Roma children attended, spoke with their teachers and also met with a group from the Roma Association.  What I saw was not a culture of isolation and distain for popular Greek values, but the life of the very poor and marginalized.  These were not people basking in wealth and uninterested in jobs or education.  The parents wanted their children to go to school, but struggled to put shoes on their feet and food in their bellies.  Government aid was non-existent.  There were no school busses serving Roma camps and most families lacked cars or money to put gas in them.  If they had the opportunity to live in a house instead of a tent, they took it – but most didn’t have that choice.

Of course, there are criminals and drug addicts in the Roma community, but that is not their culture – it’s just as much a problem in non-Roma Greek society as it is among the Roma.  The only significant cultural difference I noticed was the practice of wedding at a young age and having children.  Seen from the Western eye, this is strange and problematic.  Children are frequently wed at age 15 and immediately begin forming a family.  At the same time, they stop attending school if they were lucky enough to be going to one in the first place.  Some parents told us they have their children wait until they are 20 to be married so that they are able to receive a better education.  Of course, being poor and having children exacerbates financial strain, but I struggle to accept the solution being that they stop having children.

As for the other things claimed by the non-Roma Greeks to be part of Roma culture, I see these as no more than a way to mask intensive institutional racism.  The non-Roma Greeks use this narrative of a culture that rejects Western values to justify discrimination.  Being poor and unable to clothe and feed their children is not ‘cultural’ at all, it’s living in poverty.  Having a government that creates laws so that Roma do not have the same opportunities for education and employment as non-Roma is institutional racism.  The situation in Greece makes me both sad and angry.  I heard from non-Roma Greeks about how exotic they thought Roma culture was and how they envied the “free people.”  In reality, what they envied was a fantasy in their heads.  The Roma themselves have the same basic needs as every other human and the non-Roma Greeks need to get their heads out of the clouds and realize how their self-induced fantasy is perpetuating a system of discrimination.

Our program concluded with a visit to a Roma camp that had me holding back tears the entire time.  How can you not walk among these people and see the inescapable poverty that comprises their daily lives?  Yes, Greece is suffering a tremendous economic depression, but that is not justification for institutional racism.  The people we saw had nothing more than clothes on their backs and makeshift shelters.  They try to get electricity, but the government calls it illegal and cuts the wiring.  They apply for legal electricity service, but the government says their houses don’t meet code so they can’t receive it.  We literally saw a school bus drive through their camp with non-Roma children, that didn’t stop for the Roma kids.  The community leader was welcoming but clear about his disdain for the way that the Greek government treats them, acting with the goal of exterminating them rather than helping them.  The children were the most uplifting, but also the reason why I was holding back tears.  They had so much energy and joy, they loved to see us, play with us and tell us (through translation) that they can’t understand what we’re saying.  Their eyes are filled with love and hope.

It was difficult to see all of this and know that there was very little I could do to change anything.  One question I tried to ask as often as I could from the Roma was “How can we help you?”  The answer was consistently “Share what you learn here back in America.”  And so this blog post is the first of my efforts to do just that.  I think we always need to be careful when we hear people speak about “cultural difference” and make sure they aren’t using it as a mask for racism.  I also think that expecting those living in destitute poverty to pull themselves up the economic ladder is unrealistic, especially when their own government is working hard to prevent them from moving up.  Both Roma children and adults must be given access to education, basic health services and work opportunities so they can put food on the table and have reasonable living conditions.  When looking at the budget of the Greek government, the cost of providing these basic services takes up a miniscule percentage.  There is no good excuse for allowing the Roma to continue suffering.

Our program co-directors, Dr. Taso Lagos and Dr. Nektaria Klapaki from the Jackson School of International Studies, are working to develop one or more legacy projects in addition to their ongoing research on discrimination in Greece.  When considering how I might contribute to a legacy project, I was particularly inspired by the discussion of how important poetry and music are to the Roma.  One member of the Roma community told us that his uncle taught himself to read and write in Greek and hopes to soon publish his first book of poems.  He also told us that the Roma Association is working with the Municipality of Nafplio to organize a summer music festival featuring Roma singers.  I am hopeful that I can find a way to help amplify the voice of the Roma through their art, both in Greece and in America.  I’m looking forward to working with Dr. Lagos and Dr. Klapaki on this project.

My experience with the ten-day study abroad program in Greece has been truly life-changing.  The opportunity to travel, see the beautiful places and historic sites as well as meet the people was unique and wonderful on its own, but what made the experience life-changing was the hands-on academic component studying discrimination.  This program has left me with thoughts and ideas I never could have gained in a classroom.  I hope that my story helps inspire others to incorporate study abroad into their education.

Our group with a Roma community outside of Athens.

Dogs of Greece

Since arriving in Greece, it has been surprising to see so many stray dogs wandering the streets.  When we went on a tour of the Acropolis and asked our guide about the dogs, she said there are several reasons why the dogs have been left behind.  In some cases, families can’t afford to care for them since the economic depression hit.  In other cases, they bought the dog and never learned how to care for it.  She said it is common for people to drive their dogs to a park, drop them off and then drive away.

When I heard all of this it was quite heartbreaking.  I have grown up with dogs and love them very much.  However, our guide gave us some good news: There is a large volunteer organization in Greece that cares for the dogs, ensuring they have food and water as well as looking out for their health.  Seeing how these dogs have become a part of the community and how the Greek people care for them has transformed what appeared at first to be an awful situation into a heartwarming one.  Of course, it would probably be better if all of these dogs had homes, but it is nice to see familiar dogs as we wander the town.  The dogs are friendly and love to be petted, they seem to be pretty content with their circumstances.

Here is one of the first dogs we met, laying on the steps up to the Acropolis:

One dog in particular has formed a special bond with our group.  We met her upon arriving in Nafplio and she followed us around as we wandered the city.  One of our group members has fallen in love with the dog and named her Káltses, which is Greek for Socks.  Here she is exploring the beach:

So while there is no doubt that people in Greece are experiencing very tough economic times, it is nice to see how they still come together as a community to care for each other, and for the dogs.

Four days in Greece and so many stories to share

We have packed so much into every day on this Spring Break study abroad, it has been wonderful!  Our second day started with a guided tour of the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum.  It was pretty surreal to be walking among ruins that were built seven thousand years ago.  Here we are in front of the Parthenon:

That evening, we explored Athens and did everything from browsing a cool little bookshop to dancing in a Latin-themed club:

On the second day in Athens we dove into the academic part of our program by dispersing in groups of three throughout various neighborhoods in Athens to conduct surveys.  We were focused on gathering the opinions of Greek people about the Roma people.  We had five questions we asked everyone that focused on understanding both their personal opinions of the Roma and how they feel the Roma are treated in general.  My group went to the University District and it was surprising to hear all of the different opinions that people had.  Some thought that a lot needed to be done by the Greek people and government to ensure that the Roma’s rights were protected and that they had the same opportunities as everyone else in Greece.  Other people wanted nothing to do with them and didn’t think anything should be done to help them.  We spoke mainly with students, but also with people who were on breaks from work or waiting for a bus.  It was a bit scary to approach strangers and ask them questions about such a sensitive issue, but ultimately it was a great learning experience.

The survey responses are being collected by our program co-director, Dr. Taso Lagos.  This is the beginning of an on-going research project and I look forward to the results.  The Roma problem is such a complicated issue and it connects with a lot of the same discrimination issues we have in the United States.  I didn’t know anything about the Roma before beginning this program, except that they were a very poor minority group in Greece and around the world.  I still don’t know very much about them, but I am starting to build a basic understanding.

After completing our interviews, we departed Athens for Nafplio, where we are spending the majority of our 10-day spring break study abroad program.  After the two hour bus ride, we were all set aback by how beautiful and calm Nafplio is.  After checking-in to our rooms, we met our local coordinators, Katerina, Nefeli and Tassos, three Greek graduate students, for a group welcome dinner.  As usual, we stuffed ourselves family-style with excellent Greek cuisine.  The coordinators are helpful because of their knowledge of Greece and the Roma people as well as their ability to translate for us.  They are also very friendly and welcoming!

One highlight of Nafplio is the Castle of Palamidi, an ancient castle high up on a cliffside looking over the town and surrounding sea.  After learning about it, a group of us decided we wanted to wake up early in the morning and climb up the 59 stories of steps to watch the sunrise from the castle.  The view as we climbed up was more beautiful than can be put into words:

Unfortunately, when we made it all the way to the top we discovered the gate to the inner part of the castle was closed and didn’t open until 8am.  Here we are in front of the gate, thrilled to have made the journey anyway:

After our morning hike, everyone went on a walking tour of Nafplio where we split into groups led by the coordinators and spoke about the Roma with business owners and other people who were not busy.  It was very helpful to have the coordinators there to translate.  My group met with a group of elderly men in a cafe as well as someone from the restaurant where we had dinner the previous evening.  The second person told us that he has a Roma employee who has worked for him over 20 years.  The employee was willing to speak with us, and through translation we learned how grateful he was to have work and that many of his childhood friends had died young because of the circumstances that they were living in.  The biggest change he hopes to see is that more Roma are able to find employment, but we have learned this issue is more complicated than it appears.  The Roma are largely uneducated, sometimes only attending a few months of school as a child.  Without basic education, job options in the depressed Greek economy are almost impossible to find.

Later in the day, we met for a seminar at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies, where we are being hosted for our program in Nafplio.  Three local officials spoke and gave us their take on the Roma problem in Greece.  It was interesting to hear their perspective and many of us left with more questions than answers, which was probably a good thing.  What makes things truly challenging is that it is difficult and perhaps impossible to meet with the Roma themselves, aside from those that are begging on the streets (usually children).  Initially, I thought the “Roma problem” was about crime, but the government and local experts we spoke with said that they are more concerned with the abuses that are perpetuated within Roma society.  Children being prevented from receiving proper education and health care is one of the abuses we learned about that disturbs me the most.  In this way, the Greek people seem more concerned with ending the abuses than with cultural assimilation.  How to approach this is a very difficult question we will continue to explore.

After the seminar, we had a group lunch followed by some free time to explore the town on our own.  Here we all are standing by the water after the seminar:

I’m amazed by how much we have done in the first four days, it has been more fun and educational than I ever imagined!  Stay tuned for my next update which will include a heart-warming story about the dogs in Greece.

 

Hello from Athens!

I arrived in Athens yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon along with the other 16 students participating in the UW Spring Break program in Greece.  The faculty leading our program arranged for vans to pick us up from the airport, which made getting to the hotel a breeze.  Our rooms were ready when we arrived, I’m sharing a beautiful suite with two other guys on the trip.  Check out the view of the Acropolis from our balcony:

I was exhausted after going about 25 hours without sleep, so I took a nap after checking-in and then joined the group for our first dinner together in Greece!  We went to a local taverna our faculty leader selected and ate tons of excellent Greek food family-style.  Here we are (that’s me hiding in the back-right):

Now it’s Wednesday morning and after a nice breakfast at the hotel we’re preparing to go tour the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum.  So far, the people in Greece have been warm and welcoming – I can’t wait to explore the city, learn the history and meet more of the community!

To New Beginnings

Jesus God.

What a crazy few weeks it’s been since my last post.

Quick update on the Asian buffet I talked about on my last post; turned out to be bad from what everyone said. I thought it was good but that was probably because I was missing Asian food from home.

Versailles was a beautiful castle with an extravagant garden. It could’ve been more stellar if the weather was a tad nicer. Getting past the ticket people with our student card was a big hassle, but after that it was uphill. Going home from Versailles was a hot mess because a train had a “switch malfunction” and possibly collided with another train. Panic ensued but we all got home safe.

Pictured: Garden of Chateau Versailles

Week 5: Museums, Mom, and Laughs

Nothing much besides the usual class and museum outings. We went to Centre Pompidou, Les Halles, Bercy, and the National Library of France all in one day. My other class went to Musée de l’Homme which was an interesting exhibit about human evolution.

The 4 of us had planned to meet at a museum and I got there late. When I arrived at the museum they didn’t let anyone in for some security reason they didn’t say. There were a lot of police and military personnel everywhere so I assumed it was some sort of attack or threat. Speaking of attacks, something happened at the Louvre that made us have a lockdown from all outings that day and warnings to not visit any touristy locations.

My New England Patriots are Super Bowl 51 champions! Tom Brady is the MVP!

My mom FaceTimed me this week. I haven’t talked to her in a while and she was happy to talk to me as any mom would be. My mom and I don’t really show our emotion to each other but she said she misses me and she misses that I eat all of her food. It doesn’t sound like much but it was the way she said she misses me. It was a really sad tone and I could hear it in her voice. I’m not one to cry but my mom got me almost teary eyed from that.

Towards the end of the week Toad and I went inside Centre Pompidou to check out their exhibits. Their contemporary art was okay but their modern art floor had a lot of nice pieces. They even had a gallery featuring Picasso and Matisse! If you’re in the area of Centre Pompidou, definitely check out the crêpe shop around the corner! They have giant crêpes at really good prices!

Pictured: “Dr. Dunkenstein” at Centre Pompidou

Week 6: See You Later

The final week of block 1! The highlight of this week is surprisingly not finals, but the Eiffel Tower makes an appearance in my blog again! Toad and I had devised a plan to go up to the Eiffel Tower’s 3rd floor and drink champagne up there and feel classy. The only thing is we weren’t trying to pay for overpriced champagne–we were planning on sneaking in our own champagne up there and boy did our plan go through. We brought our own champagne and champagne glasses and managed to get through 2 waves of security, walked up the stairs again, and after waiting in line after line, got up to the 3rd floor and proudly drank our rosé champagne on the 3rd floor! We ended the Eiffel Tower by skating at the ice rink on the 1st floor. It was fun ice skating at the Eiffel Tower…until we both fell down embarrassingly in front of so many people so we left right after that happened.

We all planned our last get together at Destiny’s place for a farewell dinner and on the menu was Destiny’s famous 3 cheese crab pasta! The next day was bittersweet with finals and everyone leaving to one place or another as block 1 wraps up. Toad is heading to London while Jared goes to Rome and I was going to London for the weekend. It was a sad moment when each person went their separate ways but as cliché as it sounds, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Pictured: Group dinner

Block 1 was chock full of amazing memories with amazing people and with more people coming to Paris for block 2, I’m sure there’ll be just as much fun to be excited for!

 

As always, thank you for reading my entries! Any feedback is much appreciated no matter what it is!