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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Updated the update.

Hey readers!!!

                I have, once more, another update for you all. This update is (95%) final; as in it will not change again. This update also changes and corrects my itinerary in my last blog post. I can never seem to make up my mind! I am going to try to post every couple of weeks about how the planning for my trip is progressing. Hey! Maybe I will even post packing tips or something of that sort. Who knows?

                My current plans for the entire trip are pretty much set in stone. The trip is going to last from December 13th until December 23rd. Once I get to England on the 14th I will be immediately heading from London to Canterbury. During this time I will be rejoicing because this semester will be finally over and I won’t ever have to look at my evil 20 page paper that I am currently procrastinating on, ever again. I will also probably be staring out of a high-speed train window in an exhaustion induced daze. Mainly because I will be boarding my plane around 7pm and getting to London around 1pm. Sounds terrible right? I have a two hour layover in Dublin, Ireland. So my first flight from Chicago to Dublin is about 8 hours long, and the flight from Dublin to London is about an hour and twenty minutes. Then I have to go through customs at some point, and I also have the train ride from London to Canterbury; which could take anywhere from an hour to three. I am probably going to be exhausted.

                After I get to Canterbury, since I have to stay up, I will probably walk around the city and try to remember all of my favorite places. I really want to find some of the restaurants that I ate at. I have been craving spinach and lentil soup for a year now. It is getting ridiculous. Hopefully I will be able to get a decent amount of sleep because on the 15th the student group from Carl Sandburg College will be arriving. I am still not 100% sure on what time they will be getting there, but I want to be prepared for an 8am wake-up call. Just in case.

                The next day will be filled with tours, sights, sounds, and all that is wonderful about Canterbury. Can you tell I am biased yet? I may get to take the students out to dinner or something as well. It should be fun! I’m pretty excited about all of this!

                On the 17th I will be saying “BYE!” to the CSC group and head off to Cardiff, Wales while they head off to (I believe) Germany. Hope they all bring warm winter coats. And snow boots. Definitely need snow boots. While in Cardiff I will be going to the Doctor Who Experience. I have been told by most of my friends that I have to take pictures, or they won’t believe that I went.

                I will be in Cardiff until the 19th, and then I will be heading back to London, England. I may make a few days trips to cities nearby, but I am not sure yet. I know that while I am there I will be seeing the play Richard III at the Barbican Theatre, staring David Tennant. Did I mention David Tennant will be in the play? I will also be seeing Henry V at the Noel Coward Theatre, staring Jude Law. Did I mention JUDE LAW. I have binoculars and maybe I’ll be able to use a camera to get a picture. Probably not, but I will definitely have to get something. Or my friends will not believe that I actually saw either of them. The final play that I will be going to while in London is Phantom of the Opera. I’m so excited to see it. I know every word of every song. I’ll have to refrain from singing along.

                Also while I am in London I am hoping to go to the Borough Market and to their Winter Wonderland that they have every year. My hostel is right next to the market, so that should be fairly easy. I just hope that they are open while I am there. The London Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park sounds AMAZING. I am hoping to get to go to the Circus and the Circus Berserk. I also want to see the Ice Castle that they are building.

                The food, the shows, the people. I am just so excited to get back to the U.K. It almost feels like I am homesick. Here’s to going to my second home soon.

Hasta luego.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Itinerary is Set

Hey everyone.

I have an update for you! I have officially figured out where I will be heading in December 2013. 

I, of course, will be heading to England once again. As I believe I told you before. I will be taking a group around Canterbury, England. I will definitely have to brush up on my Canterbury history before I go! After that, on the 17th, I will be heading to Cardiff, Wales. There, I will be participating in the Doctor Who Experience. I am so excited about that, you guys have no idea. I'm such a geek and proud of it. On the 18th, or possibly later that night on the 17th, I will be heading to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Not sure what I will be doing there, but I will certainly be seeing some of the sites around the city. The next day I will be heading to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where I will be staying for at least one night - most likely two - and seeing the Kerstcircus Ahoy; which is the massive international circus that Rotterdam hosts every year during the holiday season. After Rotterdam I will take a train over to Brussels, and then after Brussels I will be going to Luxembourg. This is just a brief overview of my planned trip. I am still doing research into things to do in each of the cities. I will be sure to keep everyone updated. 

Well, I suppose that is all for now.
Hasta luego.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I'm Going On An Adventure!

Hello everyone!

Here we go again. My travel blog is once more becoming active as I prepare for my next trip! I still haven’t gotten all of the locations pinned down yet, but I do know two for sure: Canterbury, England; and Cardiff, Wales! 

Carl Sandburg College is taking a trip to Europe on December 14th until December 23rd of 2013. They are going to Canterbury, England; Munich, Germany; and Salzburg, Austria. I think they are heading to a few smaller cities as well, but I know of those three for sure. I will be with the group while they are in Canterbury, but once they head off for Munich I will be heading to Cardiff. 

While in Canterbury I will be showing them around the city, since I lived there for three months while studying abroad. Forget about that bit did you? Just testing. Anyways, they are going to see the University that I studied at, as well as the Canterbury Cathedral. I’m sure they will be seeing many other sites as well, but I haven’t gotten a list of those. I think I may have convinced Senora Dickerson so let me take them to a pub at some point in their stay as well. It should be fun.

I suppose I’ll be logging things as I go along. I’ll probably write another post once I figure out where I am going for sure. Probably add in the prices for my flights and places to stay. Little details like that are very important. They are also kind of interesting to see from an outside view as well. 

Let me know if you think of anything that you want me to talk about while I set this up, or when I am over there. Everything should be similar to my other trips, only this time I'll be.....alone.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Welcome to the Jungle

Hola readers!

I am sad to say that this will probably be all one entry. I have literally had no time or internet connection to be able to post anything. Most of you probably already know this since you have m on facebook and I haven’t been online in a while. So I am just going to start from here and see how this all goes. Get ready for a pretty good chunk of time spent reading.
It is currently May 24th and we are all home, except for me. Nine days ago a group of 9 people from Carl Sandburg College went up to Chicago to head off for this trip. I personally had only met a few of these people once or twice. I barely new them, and some of them I didn’t know at all. It was an interesting two plane flights to get to Quito, Ecuador. I had forgotten how annoying the customs forms are when you have to fill them out mid flight with turbulence. Our first flight landed in Miami, Florida both on the way there and on the way back. I have decided that I want to visit there sometime. 

I suppose I should first apologize for the odd wording that may show up in this blog entry. I am very tired right now (that’s what happens when you have to get up at 3am to get to a 6:30am flight and stay up until 10:30pm after you finally get home after 8 hours or flying plus 2 hours of connection delay) and I am also having the problem of reverse culture shock. For me, the main problem is the language difference. I have spent a week and a day in a different country that speaks only Spanish, or Kichwa and thus had to translate for people who had no knowledge of the Spanish language. It’s a fun being part of the only group of people on the trip that spoke even a little bit of Spanish. So I apologize because I am still mostly thinking in Spanish and I can’t quite get English words out correctly. 

I will start off this story from the first day. We had just landed in Quito, I want to say it was between 8 and 10 pm. We had the joy of waiting in customs, which really wasn’t all that bad. Then we had to wait out in the lobby for the second group from Nebraska to get to the airport to arrive. That took about an hour. In that hour we learned that donut in Spanish still sounds like donut and that the key words are, “No gracias.” We had already been offered snacks from a street vendor and boy there a lot of them. When the second group finally arrived around 10pm we all got onto a bus and drove to our hotel. It was a nice little place with a soccer field to the side, all enclosed by brick walls. The first thing we were told was to not flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Then we were told to not drink to the tap water. I will let you come up with your own conclusions as to why, I’m sure they are pretty close to the correct reason. Needless to say, that was an experience. 

I’ll just go ahead and tell you that one day we woke up at 7:45 and breakfast was at 8, all of the other days we had breakfast at 7, or sometimes 7:30. I should add that most of the time we got back to the hotel close to 8 or 9 at night. Most of the time we would have to stay up for dinner and to repack all of our stuff so we could fit in anything that we had bought and put anything that we needed for the next day in our “day bag”. So you can guess correctly that most of us didn’t get a lot of sleep, even less if you stayed up to hangout or “party” as some did. I mostly hung out with my roommates and then we crashed. 

The first full day of my trip to Ecuador we went to the Mindo Cloud forest. This is an area that is part of the Amazon rainforest, but isn’t actually a “rainforest” because it has a different type of climate and weather pattern than the actual rainforest. The cloud forest is on the slope of the Pichincha Volcano, one of 20 or so volcanoes in Ecuador. It was an extremely beautiful place and we were actually able to swim in the river that ran through it, after we got a chance to zip-line across a valley that the river ran through of course. I didn’t zip-line because the high altitude already had me a little dizzy and I didn’t want to stress myself out even more. I also didn’t have a swim suit at that time so I didn’t go swimming, but I did hike all the way down to the bottom of the trail. The hike back up almost killed me. I forgot that when you go down one way, to get back to where you started you have to walk back up. By the end of this trip we all concluded that we would all be able to run a marathon with ease. 

On the first day we also visited the Intinan Museum and learned about the Incas and the equators; which we got to stand on. It is a funny feeling to close your eyes and stand directly on the equator line. You can literally feel the magnetic fields created by the poles pulling you in opposite directions. We also learned that on the equator a person with only a little arm muscle can push down the flexed arms of a pro-wrestler. 

The second day of the trip we travelled to Otavalo where we stayed for two nights. The first day we went to a place called The Province of the Lakes and we saw pre-Incan pyramids. These pyramids were flat, unlike those of the Egyptians. We learned that the Egyptians were one of the very, very few cultures that actually didn’t use flat topped pyramids.  This area where the pyramids were was literally in the center of all of the volcanoes. One pyramid in particular you could stand on it and see all of them. It was very beautiful, but it was quite a hike to walk around the whole place. Though, not as bad as the hike through the Mindo Cloud Forest. That night we got back just in time to spend an hour in the Otavalo market. Most of the stalls were closing, but a few were staying open just in case people like us showed up. That night Profesora Dickerson, our bus driver Raphael, and one of our tour guides David took us out to find a place to salsa dance. That didn’t quite work out, but we still had fun trying to salsa. Both of our Ecuadorian friends were quite the dancers. After a while the group of us students (about 6 of us) went to another place that was playing music from the U.S. and we danced for a few hours. It was so much fun and we all had a really good time. 

The third day we went to Malchingui; which was a small village that worked hard to restore nature back to its original form from the destruction that has been caused by deforestation. It was neat and the tour of the village and the surrounding area taught us a bit about the plants and animals that grew around there. We also helped weed the area where they start growing trees to replant, though I had to stop part way through because I began to get dizzy from the altitude. We were also introduced to some of the thistles in the area via grabbing them to pull them out. Those things are evil. Just sayin’. When we returned to Otavalo we got to spend more time in the market. We had to speak Spanish to most of the stall tenders, but it was very good practice and it was interesting to actually barter the prices down. I got a leather handcrafted belt that was $40 down to $10 because I kept saying “No gracias,” when I should have been saying, “No.” Maybe the guy would have left me alone. Oh well, I got a new belt out of it for cheap. I suppose I can live with myself. =] 

Later that night we got the surprise of our lives, or at least the trip. We would be spending 3 days in the Amazon rainforest and in order to get to the lodge that we would be staying in we had to take a “canoe” ride up the river. I should tell you that I am terrified of water, unless its rain or in a pool. You can imagine what my reaction was. Not pretty. 

We got up extremely early and got on a bus to take an extremely long ride to the place where we got on a boat. The good thing was that we did get a break. We got to a hot spring resort; which was a big, multi-swimming pool area that was heated by a volcano. There was one problem though: I still didn’t have a swim suit. I had resigned myself to just reading my book while I waited for everyone to get done swimming when I saw that one of the stores was selling swim suits. So I bought one….for $10.80. I FULL SWIM SUIT FOR $10.80. I was a happy camper. 

The boat ride up the river to the lodge was terrifying, especially since we were still on the boat when the sun was set and the sky was dark. It helped a little that the canoe was actually a motorized pontoon boat. When we finally docked we had to climb up 30 more stairs to get to the lodge. Profesora Dickerson, we found out later that night, had mistaken mud for a stair and it had taken 3 men to pull her out of the mud/river. 

That night was the first time ever that I have slept in a mosquito net. I’m not sure yet if I really liked it or not, but it kept the bugs off my bed, and believe me there were bugs…..lots and lots of bugs. The spiders were the worst. Someone even got a picture of a huge spider, and you could tell it was a huge spider because it was eating a lizard. Yeah. 

The day after that is where it gets tricky. We took another boat ride across the river, hiked a few minutes, and then reached an indigenous Kichwa village and school. Did I mention we had to carry 10 gallon buckets of pain and water, as well as other things to the village? No? Well we did. Luckily the guys were nice enough to carry the really heavy stuff, but most of us girls felt bad and tried to give the guys a break after a while, but they just kept on going. Yay for gentlemen! Once we got to the village, that’s when it got tricky. Originally we thought that we would be playing soccer with the school children, but that got changed pretty fast. We painted the outside of the school, built a swing set, and built two tables that they could eat at. It took a good 11-12 hours to do. Though I am glad we did it. It was entertaining to see the children get excited. The girls in our group with long hair got their hair braided whether they liked it or not (yay for short hair!), and they even help paint the walls….and a chair. We ended up losing 2 of our 6 paint brushes, but hey what can you do. 

When we got back that night we were exhausted, covered in paint and sweat, and some of us were even close to passing out from being in the sun so long. Two of my group members actually did pass out while we were in the village, but luckily they were already sitting down or laying down in the room we were given to put our stuff in. That night most of us (except the group leaders because we wore them out) went up to the lounge and a dining room around, that was up 60 or so stair by the way. We sat around and hung out. One of the other girls from the other group taught me and a few others how to salsa. It was fun, but I’m still not the great at it. I guess I’ll just have to practice here at home. 

The next day we took another boat ride, about 45 minutes, to an Amazon animal rescue center were we say a few monkeys, a lot of birds, and an ocelot. The funniest moment was when a butterfly got into a spider monkey cage. The monkey saw it an immediately was no longer interested in us and chase the butterfly around. It had almost caught it when the butterfly squeezed through the fence and the monkey made a grumpy face and even grumbled. It was hilarious!

Then we left and went to another area via boat ride, and learned about the hunting style of the indigenous people before they found guns and dynamite. We ate lunch off of washed banana leaves (though they were washed in the river so I’m not sure what to think about that) and swam in the river for a bit. I didn’t swim because I was not getting in the river even if someone paid me to. Then we went back to the dock and got back on the bus. Hallelujah! 

We ended up staying in a hotel outside of Banos, Ecuador. The hotel was great because it had the first internet access that I could actually connect to. Before that I was going through internet withdrawals. Not really, but I did miss talking to people back home. 
The last day in Ecuador was spent looking at waterfalls, both from a distance, after a hike, and from a cable car ride. That cable car ride was extremely high up, but very fun at the same time. It didn’t help that a hippie was running the whole thing. That is funny. Then we got to run around the market street of Banos and buy more souvenirs, though trying to get money out of the ATM was like pulling teeth. At the market street we got to watch taffy being pulled. Those guys have got to have some impressive upper body strength. It was interesting to watch and getting free, warm and chewy taffy was a treat. Of course I had to buy some to bring home. 

After that we left Banos and returned to Quito, where we had started. It was sad to leave, but most of us were ready to go home. We left at 3 am the next day and got on the plan at 6 am. I don’t know if we will ever see anyone from the other group from Nebraska again, but we will all miss them. Spending a week in a foreign country will do that to people. 

We all experienced some weird and tough times throughout the whole trip. The bipolar, high pressure showers, the different food, the massive amount of rice we had to eat, not throwing toilet paper in the toilet but in a trashcan, getting used to the fact that when a native citizen says 15 minutes they really mean 45 minutes, and even tougher things. I will never forget the good times. The shock when guy without a filter says something offensive and the person he’s talking to just laughs, the klutzy moments, the dancing, and jokes, and most importantly the friends that we made. It may seem sappy, but it’s all true. Though I am glad that I am home now, I am glad that I went. I encourage you, if you get a chance to; go somewhere you’ve never been before. See castles, and mountains, and waterfalls, and people who look very different from the usual. Eat something you would have never thought you would eat before. Do something that scares you. It’s an experience that will stay with you forever. Don’t miss it for the world. 

Now I just have to wait for Switzerland. Sí Senora?

Until the next adventure from afar, Adiós mi amigos.


[And now for a few quotes from the trip.]

“I’m hot and tired, and angry because I am hot and tired.”

“Please tell me it’s not papaya.”
“Okay…..But its papaya.”

“I do.”
“I do too.”

“It’s five o’clock in the morning.”

“Here’s my number. So call me maybe.”

“Welcome to the jungle…..It’s not fun and games.”

“We survived the freaking AMAZON. This is NOTHING.”

Train Train Come This Way

Hola amigos,
I am currently sitting on a train staring out at the scenery passing by. I always forget how many corn fields we have around Monmouth. I know, seems impossible to forget, but hey you know me. Anyways I am running on 4 or 5 hours asleep. I’m afraid to count the actual number because then I might actually feel as tired as I should be feeling right now.
I’m FINALLY heading to Chicago, tomorrow I, along with the rest of my group, will be getting on a plane and heading to Quito, Ecuador. After the lack of sleep and the final that I had to pull off (with flying rainbow colors I might add) this morning, I am just ready to see my hotel room that I will be staying in tonight. I’m not sure what the rest of the day really has in store for me, other than rickety old trains rocking back and forth hazardously on the train tracks. It has already been an adventure though. It all started yesterday when I had 2 finals due. One of those finals was a final I had to take early to come on this trip. Needless to say my teacher and I had a miscommunication problem and I had to take the final this morning at 10 a.m. My train left at 12 p.m. See the problem? Anyways I also had to move out my dorm room last night, and pack, and study, and give a presentation. Its been a GREAT finals week. Though, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
 Well this is a small entry. I may write another one tonight and see where that takes us. This trip is only a week long so this will be a short blog edition, but hopefully I can write and entry a day. We shall see how it goes. Until then,
Buenas tardes mi lectores.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

¡Vamos a Ecuador!

Hello once again!

I’m going to start up this blog again because I will be going to Ecuador with a group from Carl Sandburg College for a week. So, as of right now, I will tell you a little bit about the trip. On May 15th the group along with Profesora Dickerson, the amazing teacher who shipped me off to England before, will be leaving for Quito, Ecuador. You may just get another in-flight blog post from me telling out about the insanity that is flying internationally, once again. I’ve heard from many people that the story about the little girl sitting next to me on the way to England was adorable and funny. Who knows what will happen this time.

The cities that will be covered in Ecuador are Quito, Otavalo, Malchingui, and Misahualli. I’m sure there will be other cities, but as of right now these are the only names that I know. The group will be travelling through canyons, going to hot springs, looking at volcanoes, and running around the Amazon Rainforest. Okay, maybe not running around and we won’t be going in very deep, but still it the Amazon Rainforest. Anyone who has known me since I was little will tell you that I have always wanted to go there and I love learning about it. I even had a computer game when I was little that taught me about animals and plants in the Amazon.

I am very excited for this trip, especially since I get to practice speaking Spanish more; which is very important since I will need it for my major and my future job. Plus I really want to see a monkey.

Well for now I’ll leave you with this. I know you’ll have questions so go ahead and ask and I will try to answer the ones that I can. ¡Adiós!