Implications of tourism in Tanzania

My study abroad experience was wonderful.There is no way I will be able to fully express it through writing.The full extent of my experience and feelings will remain with me in memory. During my journey I kept a detailed personal journal where I documented my experience. I may not include all the details in this particular essay. However, I will try to express somethings.

I first visited Kenya before going to Tanzania for my study abroad. I boarded the plane headed to Kenya my home country about a week before my study abroad. Kenya was absolutely wonderful. I reconnect with family that I had not seen in eight to ten years. I visited my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Although it was many years since I have been to Kenya, I instantly reconnected with family. Talking and interacting with family was as if resuming a conversation that had just been put on pause for a while, as if no time had passed between then and the time we last met. They were all ecstatic to see me. I travelled from Nairobi to Nyandarua to Mombasa, to Kapsabet. Kenya has changed and grown a lot, it’s wonderful! I truly cannot express the joy and experience I had in Kenya. These memories and feelings will remain with me.

After my week in Kenya, I boarded a bus headed to Arusha, Tanzania. The traveling time was about four hours. The view was wonderful, hills,plains and wild animals spread out. A student who was part of the study abroad group had also decided to visit Kenya. So we took the bus to Tanzania together. Four hours later we arrived and got picked up and driven to where we were to stay.

During the first four days, we were hosted by a small college. During this time, we explored the environment to get a feel of Tanzania. The rest of the students got a small crash course in Swahili, since I already knew Swahili, I helped them out a bit.
After that week, we started to travel to different parts of Tanzania. Most of our time in Tanzania was spent exploring and discussing the discourse surround ecotourism. We were not in a formal classroom. We learned about the positive and the negative aspects of ecotourism. We started in Maji ya Chai we traveled to Arusha National park to Lake Natron Conservation to Serengeti National Park to Ngorongoro Conservation Area and to Loliondo.

The positives aspects of ecotourism is that wild animals are conserved and not invaded upon by humans and people get an opportunity to visit and view the wild life. However, there is a down side to ecotourism. First, animals are glorified more that people. When tourists go to Africa, the majority only go on Safari to see animals, yet they never take the time to actually interact and know the people of Africa. When tourists visit Europe, they go and see human creation, human architecture, when tourist visit Africa, they only go to see wild life. Negative stereotypes concerning African people emerge due a lack of interaction and understanding on part of the tourist. Second, tourism lodges are so expensive that only rich people, mostly from Europe and America, can afford. Third, the conservation areas were designated and made by European nations, it’s not the Tanzanian government who made the conservation areas. This shown the colonialist connotation that the conservation areas have. Who said that European nations are the only ones who know how to conserve and take care of animals? Animals are designated such as huge area of land by the guidelines of European counties, while the Maasai people’s land is getting snatched away from them by conservation workers and investors. That is ridiculous. No one tells Europe and America what to do with their land. As we were speaking with the Maasai people of Tanzania, we leaned that the Maasai have their own mechanics on how they protect and conserve the animals. Each clan looks out to conserve a particular animal, this is their way to be stewards of the land that they acknowledge was given to them by God. I strongly agree with them.

My favorite part of my study abroad experience was meeting the people of Tanzania. I truly do miss the people. I miss the people I met when I went to church. They were so welcoming. Church service was wonderful, just like in Kenya, just like in the U.S. I ate lunch with them, joined their choir practice in the afternoon and was invited to visit by two ladies. I had a wonderful time, I miss them. The members of the Pastoral Woman’s Council (PWC) were great. They are a strong organization that empowers their community. There is so much I can say about them, but I need to summarize. The experience I had with them I will never forget. They educate the community regarding money, they educate the community by running a high school, they also fight against injustice regarding land by education the community about their rights.

The students that we met were also wonderful. They reminded me of my experience when I went to school in Kenya. They were very friendly, I made friends with them. We played, laughed and talked together. The people that hosted us were also so wonderful. I had a great time with them. They directed me on how to get African Style clothing tailored. We spoke about the differences between Tanzania and Kenya. We laughed and made jokes. I really connected with them well. It was great to be with my fellow Africans. There is just something wonderful about being with people like you, people who really understand you.

One of my goals is to travel to as many African counties as possible and interact with the wonderful people and see the wonderful treasure that lay in my home continent. After the study abroad ended, my adventure continued. I went back to Kenya to visit more family members. Before the study abroad, I had visited family in Nairobi and Nyandarua, after the study abroad, I visited family in Mombasa and Kapsabet. The experience was wonderful. I was there for about a week. Time flew by so fast and soon I boarded the plane heading back to the USA. It was great to come back to my mom, dad and sister although I missed my relatives. I will never forget this wonderful experiences. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. Although I am no longer there, the memories will remain.

Reflecting on my experience in Brazil

Reflecting is very important so that I can process and remember my experience. There are many things that I learned concerning Brazilian culture. Some activities that are memorable to me are such as the Capoeira workshop/kids’ performance, the workshop of leaning to play African instruments such as the drums and shakers, our visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, our visit to Steve Biko and our visit to the Afro-Brazilian clothing studio.

It was interesting to learn about Capoeira’s history. Capoeira is a combination of dance and fight. It was used as a form of self-defense for enslaved Africans during the time on slavery. This knowledge of the history and background and significance of the moves made our encounter with Capoeira more valuable as we learned some moves during the workshop and as we watched the kids play it. Because Capoeira is now used only as an art form and not a self-defense mechanism, it would be interesting in the future to see if Capoeira ever changes significantly throughout time. It was interesting to play the African instruments. I have never played them before. I particularly liked the shakers. They are so simple, yet can make complex sounds. African things are impressive, even the “simplest” things are so beautifully complex if you look long enough. The visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, was also very valuable. It was great to learn about the strong communities that runway slaves created. I love hearing stories of resistance against oppression, we do not hear resistance stories often enough. It was great to hear from the brother and sister that spoke to us about their personal life-stories. I love listening to peoples’ life-journeys.

I will compare one of these activities to my culture, I am Kenyan. I will comment concerning the visit when we met Goya Lopes who talked to us about Afro-Brazilian fashion. It was very interesting to see the whole process of cloth-making, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this event was seeing the final product after everything was put together. I have many African clothing but until then I had not had the chance to see how the process of putting the African prints onto the fabric works. This was a good opportunity for me. The process begins with an artist dreaming up an Africa-inspired print design. Then the artist draws the print design on paper. Then that drawing is transferred to digital form on a computer making it possible for the design to be reproduced multiple times and in desired sizes. Then another machine (I am not sure of the name) is used to copy the digitized image onto a nylon-saturated-screen which is then sprayed with water to clean off part that are not part of the design. The next step is for two individuals to put paint over the screen which is placed over the fabric copying the design onto the fabric. Then the paint is dried and stays on the fabric. The designs we saw made were typical African style. The different prints really give character to the clothing. Then the style of the outfit itself is the finishing touch of the art work. African clothing is so distinct and beautiful.

Like I said before, this was a good opportunity for me because I got the see the process of putting the African prints onto fabric. This experience complemented an experience I had in my study abroad in Tanzania last year. This experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya, let me explain. While I was in Tanzania, I got African-style cloths made by a seamstress. These cloths were not ready-made cloths that one buys at the store. These cloths were made specifically for me. I went to a store that sold African-style-prints fabric (like the fabrics we saw made in Brazil), and I chose and bought the fabric that had the designs and colors that I liked. Then I took the fabric to the seamstress. She measured my size, I gave here the style I had searched and liked, she took note and she together with her assistants made me the cloths. The cloths were beautiful and very well done. Like I said, when it comes to clothing, Kenyan and Tanzanian style and process of making are similar, that is why I said that this experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya. When people want African-styled clothing, many people prefer to choose the prints and fabrics they like then they personally go and get fitted and their cloths are made by the seamstress instead of buying ready-made clothing like in a mall. In Tanzanian (which is similar to Kenya) I got to choose and buy the print design and fabric I wanted, I chose the particular style of the outfit itself that I wanted (unlike ready-made cloths such as in malls). My experience in Tanzania (which is similar to Kenya) complements my experience in Brazil because while Brazil, I got to see how artists design the prints to the point where the print designs are put on fabric. While in Tanzania I saw how the customer chooses the print design they like to the point where they have the cloths made. These two experiences got me to understand the full process from the point the design is born in the artists mind to the point where the customer is wearing the designed clothing.

One of the difficult aspects of this event was the fact that the country’s economy had negatively affected the business making it impossible to have more artists working together. But one thing that was good to hear was the fact that the artist has workshops that expose people, especially kids, to her work to inspire them. At least that’s a positive thing despite the economic hardships.

African and African-inspired clothing (made in Brazil) is truly beautiful, unique and distinct. I am proud to own and wear my African-styled clothing. The clothing represents the beautiful imagination, creativity and artistic talents of my people. Although Brazil is not Africa, Brazil really reflected that for me. I felt at home in Brazil.

Here are some photos of my experience in Brazil:

Uplifting/heartbreaking aspects of Brazil

My aim is to explore Black people’s history and culture by visiting as many places with Black people around the world as possible. Coming to Brazil and specifically Salvador which has the biggest population of Black people outside of Africa has been very eye opening for me. This place is reminiscent of my country Kenya. As in Kenya, people in Brazil are outside interacting with one another. Marketplaces are loud and busy. Kids play outside, people buy food by the roadside, the streets are buzzing with activity. This is very different from Seattle. It is so beautiful and sweet to come and be so hugged and kissed by the host mom and by other people. Personal space in Brazil is minimal, people like to be close and personal. This friendliness and warmth is the same as in Kenya, except people do not kiss as part of greetings in Kenya. Although I was not able to interact with people of Brazil as much as I would have liked to due to the language barrier (unlike in my Tanzanian study abroad), I none the less learned much through observation and experience. I saw how lively and friendly the people are. From the taxi drivers to the cashiers to the street vendors to the people at the beaches. I experienced the genuine hospitality that my host family provided for me. My host mom was great. We were been able to communicate mostly via Google translator. Although communication was of a different nature (gestures and google translator) due to the language barrier, I still enjoyed my interactions with her. She really took care of me while I was sick. She went above and beyond.

Some parts of my experience in Brazil were heartbreaking and some parts uplifting. It was heartbreaking to hear concerning the cruel history of slavery and of the racism that is currently present. However, it was uplifting when we went to the Steve Biko NGO. It was great to hear of the hard work that people are doing to combat racism.

One of the things that Steve Biko NGO does that stood out to me was the class they teach that is focused on Black awareness. It is important that they are combating eurocentric education by educating the students about Black ideas, history and cultures. Eurocentric education is very damaging because it presents a skewed view that looks down on and minimizes other people such as Black and Indigenous people, giving undue emphasis on European points of view.

The difficult part of this event was listening to the experiences that people had concerning racism. The story about the black lady that was unduly asked by the boss to make coffee simply because she was black while that was not part of the job description. The other story was of the black professor who was barely recognized as a professor simply because of his color. I have had many conversation concerning race in the U.S. I knew what expect, however I will never be used to the heartbreak of these stories. Talking about race issues will never be easy. When it comes to my country Kenya, race is not an issue because most people are black (there are many Asian and Indian immigrants there now, but Kenya is majority Black people). The issues with Kenya have to do with ethnicity. People can be discriminated upon based on their tribe. I cannot elaborate much on tribalism in Kenya because I immigrated to the U.S when I was young, however, I do know that it is a big issue in Kenya. Just as in Brazil, there are organizations in Kenya as there are also in U.S that are trying to help communities overcome discrimination and help better the society.

In the future, I would like to learn if and how Brazilian history books will be corrected to present the correct unbiased non-eurocentric history. As long as people are misinformed, attempts to better the society will not work. Apart from lessons concerning slavery and colonization, Black people need to be taught about their great history and about their great contributions to society. This kind of education is necessary to act as a mirror example to show that Black people can be successful because they were successful in the past. This education is necessary in order for Black people to get a better and fuller understanding of who we are so we can be inspired to succeed more and reach to greater heights.

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!

~Roaming Roma~

Hello again!!

It has been a little bit over a week since I have first touchdown in Roma, Italy! Although it has only been a week, I felt as if I have been here for two-three weeks. I still can’t believe I am actually here, in ROME, the eternal city!! It’s such a surprise that me, an Asian American, first-generation student is the first in family to be in Europe. I am still incredibly grateful for the experiences I had thus far on this trip and all that I will be having the next three weeks in Rome (plus a week in France!).

So far, I have been to the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and so much more! My first week has been pretty rough due to the lack of working appliances in my apartment (wifi, refrigerator, oven, washing machine). Although some fixed now, others are not and my roommates and I are all getting a bit frustrated. Despite this, we still enjoy going out to explore this BEAUTIFUL city and go on tours of some of the most famous places here.

Living in Seattle my whole life, I was so, so fortunate to be surrounded by the diversity. Being in Rome this past week, I got a bit home sick due to this. I was so used to being able to have hundreds of options of ethnic foods, while here I have so little (probably less than 10 around this area). The other day, me and some of the other students took a (short) mission to find an Asian market, roughly 30 minutes bus ride (excluding walking). This first week really made me realize how fortunate I am in the U.S. in so many ways. Anyways, enjoy some photos I took during my past week. Thanks for reading 🙂 Ciao!

The Cheesy Truth to Being Abroad!

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go.”

With my time in Norway coming to a swift end  I’m realizing that everything anyone ever told me about studying abroad is completely true. I want to dedicate this post to trying to portray feelings that are almost impossible to get down on paper.

When I first got to Norway I was terrified. The idea of plopping down in the middle of a country, let alone continent that I have never been before was nerve racking. However, the energy from other students at my university here was incredible. We all had this connection to each other even though we had never even met yet. Meeting people was easy but finding the right people was a little harder. You know what I’m talking about, the people that are suppose to make you cry saying goodbye, and laugh at every joke, or understand what it’s like to figure out who you are. Its those who your family and friends talk about before you leave pushing thoughts in your head that you’re going to find a group of people that you’ll never forget and always plan to see. When you live in this situation its almost hard to see that you’re becoming so close to people, yet when you look back it just seems like a slap in the face how obvious it was.

Arriving to Norway I felt like I had my life really sorted out. I knew what my major was, what my dream job was, who I was as a person, and even where I wanted to plant my roots. However, you meet people that love to learn and love to travel and you sit down and explain what your major is and how it will help you get your job and then one simple question makes you rethink everything. “why?” Then my life becomes spirals. However, I’m not doing a very good job at describing this moment because its not a downward spiral, or some sad realization how my life is meaningless, it gave me a time and place that allowed me to actually analyze what I’m doing with my life. It’s amazing what a little time out from reality will do to you. I have decided that I am going to pursue a double major and I’m extremely happy with that decision. Studying abroad allows you to be every aspect of yourself that you love without the worries of everyday stress and responsibility. I have never been in a group of girls where I can be my complete raw self and have them respond with love and “ya, that’s just Kelsey!” It makes you question why your life back home isn’t this sweet and amazing and lets you look into reality with a telescope and figure out what you can do to make this happiness stretch over seas.

The truth about studying abroad, even if it is a little cheesy, is that it takes who you are on a roller coaster ride and lets you ride through every low and high. The only way to put it into words is that studying abroad lets you explore a world that you may not have seen and lets you meet people from all over the world. People that will forever be in your heart and only a plane ticket away. It lets you express yourself in a non stress environment in order to develop a way in life that makes you a better person. I know that from now on my paychecks are going to plane tickets. The Kelsey that started this blog is now improved.

These inspirational quotes have helped me put words to the feelings that are invoked during studying abroad and I hope they help others too 🙂

 

“Traveling– It leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller”

 

*These inspirational quotes were found online.

Norwegian Study Permit Key Steps

*Disclosure: The information regarding obtaining a study permit for studying in Norway can vary from university to university in Norway. It will vary from where the applicant was born and the applicant should look up further guidelines for the permit. I am no way an expert on the matter and this is likely to change from country to country.

I am writing this blog entry today to put together a chart on the best way to go about obtaining a study permit for studying in Norway for more then a three month period. I will be going over key advice and bullet points of important information you may not find on the official websites. My experience with obtaining a study permit for studying at the University of Bergen was a messy one. It took me many months to put together correct information, and many wrong turns. Studying abroad is such hard work due to the amount of things you need to complete by certain deadlines.

Step One: 

  • Create a checklist of necessary steps in order of the deadline they need to be completed by. This will come in handy not only for the study permit but all of the requirements for studying abroad. 

Step Two:

  • Know the difference between a study permit and a visa (I didn’t!)
  • More information on the difference is located on the UDI website.

If you are from the USA you do not need a visa to visit and go to school in Norway

 

Step Three:

  • Know your embassy. There are four Norwegian Embassy’s and Consulates located in the US. Each one is assigned a group of states. If you are living in Washington state you are assigned the The Consulate General in San Francisco. 

Address:
575 Market Street, Suite 3950
San Francisco, CA 94105 USA
Phone: (415) 882-2000.
Fax: (415) 882-2001.
E-mail: cgsfo@mfa.no

General Office Hours:
Monday – Friday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The passport office is open from 1 p.m. – 3.30 p.m. all weekdays.
We are closed between 12 noon and 1 p.m.

Side Note:

Online it states that you must be present in person in order to obtain your study permit. As of today, this is false. When I went through this process I had done all of the research and looked on all of the official websites only to fly down to California and find out that I did not need to physically hand in my paperwork. It was one of the most wonderful trips with a couple of my aunts, but one that was completely unnecessary and caught me completely off guard. Everyone I had spoken to had gone to San Francisco to hand in paper work, and when I got there the woman working was shocked! The important information that I got from her was this:

  1. After you apply email the consulate and let them know that you will be sending your information to them as well as ask any important questions you may have. Always double check to make sure the flight to California is required. 
  2. Make sure you have all of your important documents (I will be putting up a list)
  3. Do not buy your plane ticket to Norway until you have gotten some sort of response.

Step four:

    • Apply!

 

Step five:

  • Know how much everything costs and make sure you have a budget planned. The price for applying for a study permit is 2,500 NOK. (roughly 415 USD)

Step Six:

  • Go to your local police station upon arriving in Norway and obtain a resident card for non EU/EEA/EFTA
  • In order to obtain your residence card you will need to make an appointment which requires you to go into the station for most places.

Items to bring with you: important documents (acceptance letter, proof of finance, etc )passport, and current address in Norway!

*You are required to do this no later then 2 weeks after arrival. However, if they give you an appointment after this time do not freak! You’re aloud to be in another country for three months without a permit.

 

Here is a screenshot from the UDI website of the documents that need to be submitted when applying for a study permit:


 

If you have any questions or feel as though I need to elaborate on anything feel free to comment. 🙂

 

Time to Reflect~

With a little over a month gone by I feel that it is appropriate to do some reflections. The best way to describe what it is like to live in a foreign country for a month would be to say that the first week feels like your entire life, and every day after that is made up of less hours in the day.

My first day in Bergen felt chaotic, relaxing, insane, dangerous.. just a pile of emotions. I remember looking out of my window and staring at the water and mountains and city lights and thinking to myself that this will be what I see everyday. In other words, it will be home. As I stare out of my window it seems impossible that the girl I was a month ago has transformed into the girl I am today, and that when I look out my window for the last time in four months I’ll be thinking the same thing.

This month has brought me so many beautiful moments and just as many obstacles. One of the most important lessons I have learned while being here is that the effort you put into something is what you will receive. Everyone should go out of their way and find a way to get what you want.

The beauty in Bergen cannot be beat. Above we have the view from Mt. Floyen during the sunset. The picture does this no justice. I can say that when I get back to the US I’ll have some neat looking calfs from all the hiking adventures that are offered here! Below is a picture at the top of Mt. Floyen! You won’t have to look far for some troll and witch action here!

One of the most invigorating feelings is knowing that I can navigate a completely foreign place. Walking around with a map in my hand at all times for the first week feels like a lifetime ago. Walking into the grocery store and seeing such a high price for every single item, ranging from 22 NOK to 100 NOK, I was nervous to buy anything! Learning how to understand another currency on top of understanding the language has changed quite a lot since I’ve been here. I can now understand the prices of things, where to go to find the cheapest price for a certain item, and what is reasonable on Norway’s terms for something. I am also surprised at how much Norwegian I can take in and reply to (in English)!

With such a short time living in Bergen I feel as though the things that I have come to value the most are things you cannot buy. Being here has made me think about everyday struggles in a way I always overlooked before. Making connections with other people has been one of the hardest tasks while studying abroad. I have come to have a new appreciation and kindness to people. This month has brought me to a place that allows me to open up easier then I ever have before. Not only have I been able to identify the better ways in which I can interact with people more, but the way to better present yourself to the world. I have learned to grow into the person that I really am as a twenty year old woman, rather then a lost teenager entering college not knowing what I want to do in the world.

 Quote of the day: 

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” -Unknown

Overall, from the moment I stepped off the plane and could not find my way around the airport I knew that things were going to change very fast here in Norway. They have, but mostly I have. With the experience I have had so far I am able to push myself in ways I never knew were possible. For the first time in my life my only responsibility is to enjoy and conquer Europe, study hard, eat well, and take the time to stay outside of my room as much as possible! The financial, mental, and physically struggle that I have faced here seems insignificant to the greater purpose. I guess money can buy happiness 😉 because it sure can buy plane tickets!!!

Will I Ever Be Back?

Hey guys, Win’s here. Sorry I haven’t update about my trip on Japan to you guys since my last post. I’ve been extremely busy once I’ve reached the country of many islands. I landed on Seattle soil yesterday morning, September 19th. After a long slumber in the hope of getting rid of the jet lag, I woke up at 8 am this morning trying to adjust to reality. Somehow it’s too hard for me to get my mind off Japan for just a minute. My presentiment regarding post-trip feelings of emptiness I mentioned in my last post came true. Now, I’m sitting here trying to blog about my experience in Japan. I don’t think this is a good idea at the current state, but I think writing and thinking about the trip will somewhat put my mind at ease. I don’t know, we’ll see? I’ll be writing a paragraph for each day in Japan and accompany some pictures along to help you visualize. So to those who like to read, there writing is there and for those who like to see pictures, the pictures are also there. Best of both worlds? I think so. Here goes, Win’s adventure in Japan!

September 3rd – Day 1 (Seattle, Washington)

This is the group of individuals that I spent my times with in the past days in Japan. This was taken before we headed to Narita airport near Tokyo, Japan. We started out as strangers, as students and teachers, and as individuals. However, I have been getting to know each and one of these people and had plenty of fun times with them. Once we left, I felt like they were a part of a family that I never had. The airplane ride was long and I couldn’t even sleep once. However, I got to watch a bunch of new movies on the way.

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September 4th – Day 1 (Matsuyama, Japan)

Landed in Matsuyama in the evening after roughly 12 hours of plane ride. It was a day ahead of Washington. That’s time traveling, guys. We got accustomed to the share house and then headed to a tourist place called Dogo to buy breakfast for Day 2. There are convenient stores all over Japan that would open 24/7 that sell from drinks to lunch boxes. I would say they are your typical Seven Elevens, except fancier without the Slurpee. The amount of vending machines was overwhelming to me. There were one at every corners. There were soda and cider drinks that have Dragon Ball Z print, my generation childhood on a can right there. I bought an mandarin orange cider that are specialized in Dogo as well as some ramen (I basically ate a load of ramen for breakfast in Japan, they were delicious).

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September 5th – Day 2 (Matsuyama, Japan)

Woke up at 4 am to remembered that the glass bottle of cider I bought the night before exploded in the freezer because I left it there overnight (that’s what jet lag do to you). Three great events happened on this day; bikes, Japanese foods, and rice. Scratch that, the fourth thing is meeting our first Japanese friend. We meet with a Japanese cute female student at Ehime University (the university that affiliates with UWB and where we also learned about nuclear energy) named Yuri. She took us to a bike shop near the campus to rent our bikes. The feeling of riding a bike after 10 years of absence was indescribable. The wind I caught with the speed felt like time was flowing faster. We headed back to the campus’s cafeteria to grab our first real meal in Japan. I had karaage ramen (fried chicken noodle), Japan cold omelettes, weird textured veggies, and an incredible pudding for dessert; all for under 5 dollars. Just to warn you, I ate extensively large amount of foods while I was in Japan. So some pictures will look impossible for a small guy like me but I made it happened (kind of gross, I know, but the food was just so good!). We headed to the outskirt of Matsuyama city where golden green rice paddies were blended within the edges of the mountains. This was where we helped the local farmers harvesting the rice. It was a great experience to worked alongside with everyone as well as the farmers on the 1000 years worth of nutritious soil. Made me feel like saying “itakadimasu” (an appreciative expression to say before every meal in Japanese) isn’t really just for show.  We ended the night with a dinner at a traditional udon restaurant. It was a super supper!

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September 6th – Day 3 (Matsuyama, Japan)

I am still very much jet lagged on this day, my brain woke up at 1 am. We had our first class today at the Ehime University. A representative named Takana-san and Takana-sensei (-sensei here is added to a teacher’s name in order to show respect when address), had us learned about the radioactive rays and what materials can block them. To my surprise, water can block all three of the radioactive rays. Therefore, to live in an almost radioactive-free environment, it must be underwater. Once again, I enjoyed the cafeteria lunch VERY much! We headed down the main street to see Matsuyama Castle. Ruth-sensei (the faculty that works at Ehime, the main contact for UWB’s Global Initiatives for the study abroad in Japan, and our group’s tour guide) gave us very detailed explanations of the castle’s structures and history. In the castle, I got to tried on a samurai armor. We ended the night by eating okonomiyaki (a type of Japanese not-sweet pancake that is called the soul food of Hiroshima) at the local mall named Okaido (I’ll tell you more about this mall later). Once again, the food was delicious!

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September 7th – Day 4 (Matsuyama, Japan)

This was a free day, where everyone can roam around and explore. What I had for breakfast? You guessed it, it’s instant noodle again! Everyone decided to go shopping today and end the night with some karaoke. We headed to Dogo tourism area first, this was where everyone started to split apart and did their own things. Few of the friends and I headed down to Okaido, a mall strip just down the road of Matsuyama Castle where it’s not in a secluded area but is built within blocks of the city’s streets. David (another classmate) and I were the only male students in the group. We eventually went ahead of everyone and headed to Gintengai (another mall strip that is connected to Okaido, except it’s not connect straight but to the right of Okaido’s cut point). Let just say Okaido and Gintengai create a big L on the map. At the end of Gintengai, there’s a 9-story mall (or department store in Japan) with a Ferris Wheel on the top floor named Takashimaya. Being boys, David and I didn’t really shop but got attracted by crowds, foods, and entertaining objects. We first stopped by a kaarage shop (fried food) to grab a quick lunch. Here, there was only one worker there, a Japanese guy with some funky dyed blond hair. He greeted us with excitement. Every time we ordered, he would smiled and blurted out “ARIGATOUGOZAIMASU!” to us (it means thank you very much). He had some really upbeat music playing while he was operating his skills in cooking the food. And every time he tried to drain the oil out, he would bounced up and down to the music. Though the lunch was not that great in quantity, it was extremely delightful in quality. And somehow, the presence of the employee made the lunch completely a different dining experience! So we rode a mechanical panda and the Ferris Wheel. Later in the afternoon, we headed home to grab some dinner and headed to Dogo Park near by. They had live turtles and fishes in the pond! Then everyone headed to JoySound for a fun night of karaoke.

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September 8th – Day 5 (Gogoshima, Matsuyama, Japan)

I finally got rid of the jet lag! This was a Sunday, so it’s another free day. We planned to go to an island that is near the city named Gogoshima for a group hike. Some of us stayed back at the share house for a much needed rest after an adventurous day yesterday. Yuri and Matt-sensei came to pick us up. We got to use the train and ferry system to get over to the island. Everything ran on time to the second, the Japanese public transportation system is very efficient! Once we got to Gogoshima, the town seemed a bit quiet. There was not a lot of locals walking around interacting. Our group split into two because some didn’t want to continue up the dark trail that has a big spider web dangling in the front. The hike was canceled due to the trail being masqueraded by overgrown plants and colorful spiders. We decided to hike over this small hill instead. The trail was still very crowded with plants but we made it over to this humongous slap of pavement that extended out in the water with a sole shrine at the very end. It was an incredible environment where the sea breeze constantly blessed us with a cool temperature during our lunch break. It worth every bug bites I received. We then visited school afterward. Our guide was a 10-year-old boy who would spoke Japanese to us like we know the language. Everyone headed home in the early afternoon and rested. At 6 pm, Yuri came around to take us to a conveyor belt sushi 20-minutes bike ride away from the share house. Did I mentioned that trying Japanese made sushi was my primary purpose of this trip in my last posts? If not, then I just want to let you know that I ate 20 plates worth of delicious and inexpensive sushi!

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September 9th – Day 6 (Matsuyama, Japan)

This morning, we learned about nuclear waste management in Japan from someone who works at an energy company in Tokyo. In the afternoon, we traveled to the other side of Matsuyama Castle to visit the Japanese garden where the warlord lived to learn about tea ceremony. This day, another Japanese student joined us with the intention to improve his English. It’s also the day where I made friend with a very kind guy. His name is Kohei, and I considered him to be my Japanese brother and he thought the same. After the ceremony, we migrated back to the share house. There, we found the common room crowded with Japanese ladies preparing to teach us how to cook some Japanese dishes. The dinner was great with all the company. Here, we had the chance to laugh, to share stories, to cook, and to bond. After dinner, everyone gathered around to talk about nuclear energy and how it affects the Japanese’s ways of thinking about energy in the future. An ending to a very meaningful day.

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September 10th – Day 7 (Hiroshima & Miyajima, Japan)

Our group went to Hiroshima early on this day. I learned how to make origami crane for the first time. I made a total of 25 cranes. Another friend made 25, and together as a group, we put together more than 50 cranes for the peace park that we visited. It was a very emotional and hard moment to walked through the peace park and the Hiroshima museum. We went to an island named Miyajima neared Hiroshima to lift our spirits a little. The island was the most beautiful phenomenon I’ve ever seen, and the sunny weather that day added some majestic touches to the scenery also.  There were live deers that roamed around the island like they’re friends of human. On the island, we got to visit the Itsukushima Shrine with the floating torii gate. This is where my camera just suddenly broke!

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September 11th – Day 8 (Matsuyama, Japan)

On this morning, the group got together at the college with Matt-sensei to discussed about what we have learned so far regarding nuclear energy. After lunch, we had a Japanese teacher, Tsuchiya-sensei, who went with a group of Japanese students to talked about nuclear energy in Maryland came to give a lecture to us about the U.S. and Japan relations during the Cold War. It was a very informative lecture. After class, the “boys” from the group went with Kohei to another department store named Fuji Grand and an entertainment building called Kisuke Box to hang. We tasted takoyaki (octopus balls) there. We had sushi for dinner (this time, Ruth-sensei guided us to a different restaurant), and of course, I ate a tons of sushi! You guys still with me? Half way there!

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September 12th – Day 9 (Ikata, Japan)

We visited the Ikita Nuclear Power Plant on this day. Our group was transferred by a big bus, made me thought I was a member of a sport team when entered the bus. We took a 2 hours ride to the rest stop before heading to the actual plant. I stayed up late that morning so I was knocked out cold on the way, I missed a sight of a nice beach on the way. At the rest stop, we were offered a very nice looking obento (lunch box) from the company. After lunch, we headed down to the plant to just watch it from a watch distance. The security was very tight there. There was an actual life-size turbine there. I learned a lot about nuclear plant procedures that day. Later that night, a small group of us went for some karaoke again. I got to sing my favorite Japanese song this time! We had a blast.

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September 13th – Day 10 (Matsuyama, Japan)

We got some basic Japanese lessons today by a friend of Ruth-sensei’s in order to prepare us for the homestay over the weekend. After lunch (of course, once again, I had a big lunch, I’m in my bulking phase, you know?), we headed back to the classroom to find it was filled with many Japanese students. It was an exchange presentation from them to our group. The Japanese students started out by singing 5 acapella songs, they were so good that I had goosebumps every single songs. Then we learned how to fold some more basic origami. Last game was a game of Picture’s Shiritori (a similar game of charade). We then received gifts from the Japanese students. It was such an amazing time making new Japanese friends at the exchange. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to the school main gate getting ready for our host family to pick us up. I was greeted by a mother, Keiko-san, with a small daughter, Haruka-chan. I learned that their family name is Tomiyoshi. They took me back to their house in an suburban area. There, I gave the gift that I prepared to Keiko-san and Haruka-chan. They especially loved the “It’s Raining in Seattle” globe. The oldest son, Yosuke, got home from school around 6 pm. We then had dinner and played a game of Monopoly. Haruka-chan beat Yosuke and I badly. The husband, Shohei-san, got home late so I didn’t get a chance to interact with him that much. I went to bed with anticipation on what will I be doing the day after!

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September 14th – Day 11 (Matsuyama, Japan)

I woke up early the next day to go with Keiko-san and Haruka-chan to where Keiko-san works, at a tea ceremony school. Keiko-san teaches with 6 other teachers and they all welcomed my presence with warmth. There was a lot of kids turned out for the class and I had to talk in front of them. It was funny seeing small eyes looking at me asking “why is this big man here?” Oh yeah, I had to sit in seiza (a respectful way to sit on one’s knees) a lot of times throughout the day. I was very amazed at how long these little boys and girls could maintain the pose. Afterward, we departed back to the house for lunch. After lunch, the family gather around for a good o’ game of Uno and watched the Pirates of Caribbeans. Later that night, I had the chance to try out Kendo (a Japanese sport that practices swordsmanship) at Yosuke and Haruka-chan’s dojo. The head teacher of the class, Matsumoto-sensei, gave me a personal lesson on the basics. I would like to go into details about Kendo in my conclusion section. You guys can skip everything but please read this part where I’ll be discussing on my views of the Japanese culture.

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September 15th – Day 12 (Matsuyama, Japan)

It was my last day of homestay. We went to Yosuke’s school to watch the sport festival. Every elementary school, middle school and high school hold this event either on a Saturday or Sunday for the parents and friends to come watch. It’s amazing to see all the students practiced so hard to put up such a great show and showed a collective effort at such young age. Keiko-san prepared a very nice obento for everyone to enjoyed. I didn’t get to watch the whole festival because I had to be back at the school by 2pm. Keiko-san drove me back to the school. On the way back, we exchanged email addresses in order to contact each other in the future. The biggest regret for me was not be able to take a picture with my host family. Everyone meet up at the share house’s common room to exchanged our homestay experiences. Everyone else had great time, too!

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September 16th – Day 13 (Matsuyama, Japan)

I once again slept at 4 am on this day because I was having a boy’s problem, it was laundry problem. So I drank so much coffee in order to keep myself awake to the extend that I had to use a bowl to drink from, and I don’t drink coffee. We meet up at the Dogo main gate with Ruth-sensei and Matt-sensei to head over to Ishiteji temple, one of the 88 temples of the Shikoku pilgrimage. I got to ring a big bell that said who ever hit it would have power transferred to that person. After a moment of peaceful praying, I hit the bell as hard as I could and walked around it. Something happened and my mind was completely awake. Maybe it was the coffee that finally kicked in or just something else. We then had the rest of the day to ourselves. I spent my time with the group shopping, eating at another sushi restaurant (I broke my record by 1 plate this time!), and went to the arcade. This day was the day that I found myself a new hidden talent, claw machine games. I was able to win a lot of prizes for my friends. Later that night, the group watched a scary Japanese movie in 4D. Yes, you read it right, 4D!

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September 17th – Day 14 (Matsuyama, Japan)

We had a very relaxed morning because everyone was trying to prepare for a presentation that we have to present the next day. After lunch, we got to the classroom to have a discussion with Tsuchiya-sensei’s students about nuclear energy. After class, I decided to head to Gintengai to try to win big pillow-size plush toys for each of the girls in the group. I attracted a crowd because every time I got a win, the whole group would literally yelled and screamed in celebration. Even a Japanese lady and the employee there supported me. In the end, I was able to win 7 plush toys for the girls. It was amazing to see everyone so happy. Later that night, some of us went to the Dogo Onsen (the oldest hot spring in Japan) to try out the bath there. I felt great afterward, now I know why Japanese culture likes to include taking a bath as a daily ritual.

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September 18th – Day 15 (Matsuyama, Japan)

Last full day in Japan! Our group gave presentations on what we have learned and experienced throughout this trip. We had an audience of 30 or so. Everyone did their best and I think our messages got through to the Japanese faculties and students. Later that night, a big group of us went to a beer garden on the top floor of a skyscraper to have a farewell party. On the way home, we got to see three geisha (geisha are a very rare sight in Japan) and be able to took pictures with them! What an ending to the last night in Japan. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any of the pictures for this day, so here are some other pictures instead. Enjoy!

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September 19th – Day 16 (Matsuyama & Narita, Japan -> Seattle, Washington, USA)

The group woke up early to do some final packing before the bus arrives. Kohei and Yuri swung by to said their goodbyes. We took a funny picture of everyone as Batman (inside jokes). We also said our goodbyes to the Indonesian students who were also at the share house with us. We still very much enjoyed the Narita airport while waiting for our layover. I bought a lot of souvenirs for the folks at him. Then until we landed at the SeaTac airport. It hit me hard that I have left the country that I have always dreamed of visiting…now I’ve lost it.

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My Conclusion

On the day of the presentation, I had this slide and it says ” I’ve come to love Japan, and its people especially. The hospitality of the strangers I meet in Japan is contagious.” Though I came there for the sushi, I think that the people have gotten my heart instead. There would be many stories that my group and I countered (like the story of the guy who works at the kaarage restaurant) that would loudly express of how nice and generous the people of Japan are. For instant, my host family and Matsumoto-sensei. The night after I got dropped off from homestay, I received an email from Keiko-san. The content of the email basically said that they had a great time with me and told me that they would never forget me. Before I left the Tomiyoshi’s house, I mentioned that I like to buy some of the Kendo headband for my tennis. Keiko-san and Shohei-san would go to the supermarket and bought me 7 of the headbands as presents. In the email, there was a short message from Matsumoto-sensei saying that the dojo’ door is open anytime to welcome me back.

Not only Matsumoto-sensei gave me a personal lesson free of charge, he also gave me one of his headband that has the kanji “ninja” on it as a present, and it was our first time meeting. During the lesson, he was talking in Japanese while I was listening with an English ear. I don’t know what it was but I somehow would understood most of what he said. And what I got out of his lesson were three statements that that would stick with me forever. “Practice Kendo is to spread world peace”, “to practice Kendo with your opponent is to care about them, and “whenever you strike your opponent, it is not hate you’re transferring but love itself.” For a sport with something we considered using a weapon to hurt others, it can also be a practice to give one a peaceful state as well as spreading love around is just a really ideal philosophy for me. Before the class started, the kids would be walking about striking and yelling in order to warm up their basics. Then Matsumoto-sensei talked to the class about a story. Of course, I was suffering because of the seiza position. Later, Keiko-san told me that the story was about a great retired Kendo athletic who joined a very weak Kendo team at a police station. The team then became strong. Matsumoto-sensei said that it was because of a great mind who joined the team. But he then ended the story by saying, “to practice Kendo is not the matter of win or lose, but it’s to create peace within oneself”. I found it’s a very great sport that is taught to the children of Japan. While they’re learning about peace the have the chance to train their body and hone their sportsmanship. After the lesson, one of the kid bowed to me and thanked me. I didn’t know why but I bowed back anyways. Keiko-san told me that the group usually would practice very hard and tense but because of my presence today, they were able to gained some great motivation to work harder. I felt flattered but at the same time astonished by how amazing the Japanese culture is in delivering the sense of hard work and give love.

One last thing I learned from this trip was appreciation. Tea ceremony, saying itadakimasu, harvesting rice, sitting in seiza form for a long time, sleeping on the hard tatami bed, etc. taught me to not taking the things given to me for granted. There would be wastes every day all around the world and there would be people who need what have been wasted. We taking what given to us from the bottom up as a mere magic that we don’t fully appreciate them when they’re gone. Try this, sleep on your carpet for a night and you would miss your comfy bed dearly. Appreciate!

Sorry that you have to read this long essay. There are a lot I like to share with you all so that you would see how great study abroad would be and how much it would enriched your college experience. Trust me, when you embark yourself on a trip to visit a foreign country with antipodal culture to your own, you would learn so much about the world and even yourself. I am still very depressed about leaving Japan, I guess only time would heal this lost of mine. I just have to accept it, eventually. As time erases all of the traces of feelings I’m enduring today, I will never forget the people, the experiences, and the time I have spent in Japan 2013. The hiragana alphabet in Japanese started with “a” where you would open your mouth wide and then ended with “nm” where you would closed your mouth to pronounce it. This is just the same as everything on this world, if there’s a beginning, there would be an end. My chapter in Japan has closed, but your chapter in that foreign country you been wanting to visit could begin soon! Reach for that dream!

Win’s out!