Life Changing Days

By: Mackenzie Enich

June 12, 2013

A persistent rooster calls me to wake up from outside my window. It is 5:30 am. I lay in bed for several minutes, my weight dents the thin mattress and my head is cradled by a slice of yellow foam. I can see the sun peeking through the thick green curtains. The buzzing fan and sticky air reminds me that I am not home. I am halfway across the world, staying with a family in Ghana.
I am writing these last few posts after I have come home, for I have not been able to write about my experiences in Ghana until now. It was all too much to process. My experiences in Ghana changed my

life and are difficult to convey in words. As for what I did, I spent all my days in villages in Ghana living and learning with local people.

FishingbasketsI have done my fair share of traveling, and this is the way I like to see the places I go: by living with the people. When I arrange a “home-stay” experience I get to meet local people and through their eyes I gain an appreciation for a new culture that is different from my own. Instead of seeing the country as a tourist, I get a local, personal experience.
During this voyage with Semester at Sea I have been a part of three home stays – one in South Africa and two in Ghana. They have been some of my most memorable experiences on this trip. The people welcome you into their homes with such enthusiasm it is hard to not feel excepted. The energy of the people in the village is as vibrant as the women’s dresses and the children’s dancing.Goat In my first home stay in Ghana I had one experience that I will never forget. I spent the afternoon talking with a group of girls as we watched the boys play football. While talking I realized I had become a confidante for a short time. Having older women to talk to, to learn about themselves, is not a privilege young girls have in their village culture. When they finally opened up, their smiles grew and I realized that human connection is one of the most important things in life.
Some of these connections I find when I listen people’s stories and learn how different our lives are. I spent an overnight in Atonkwa village with the head master of the primary school. This was one of the most remote places I have ever been in the world. The village was so untouched by global influences. This was one of the things that shocked me the most. At this point in my life I am lucky enough to say I have seen many different places around the world, but I have never visited a place or met people who have little knowledge outside of their village.

That night I was sitting with my host mother, host sister, and host brother while I was watching them do homework.

grasshopperhouse Soon we all got distracted asking each other questions. The reaction that stopped me was when my 15 year old host sister asked me what my favorite food was. I told her things like pizza and hamburgers, different foods that people commonly know whether they have eaten them or not. She looked at me blankly. I tried to explain the foods and she just shook her head. She then asked how many goats I owned and how we got our food when we ate beef. I answered quickly with “well we buy it at the supermarket.” That stopped me. I sat for a moment, reflected on this life I am so fortunate to have and then said to myself, “stupid Mackenzie that is not how this works here, that was very inconsiderate and selfish.”
I tried to explain it as best as I could to her, but we come from very different ways of life. Even though we have such different lives, myself and my host family, we spent a fantastic evening listening to each other and explaining the different things that make up our livelihood. We laughed for half an hour while I tried to explain to them what a bear looks like and what snow feels like. Then I was


In both my home stays in Ghana I was lucky enough to be staying with teachers in the village. With my journalistic nature I like to ask questions, but there I was out questioned. My hosts had been endlessly curious about me and my life back home. One important thing I learned while staying with them is that not only am I interested in their lives, but they are equally interested in mine.
captivated by their stories, so interested in how they lived their day to day lives realizing that the world is enormous and everyone lives in it differently.

HandprintI spent a good portion of that afternoon sitting in the house talking to one of the teachers about how school works, what the neighbors are like, what church services are like, and how they feel about technology and media. He returned the questioning to me, curious to know how their village was different from my home. I could only say it is a simpler way of life here, not better or worse, it is just calmer in the village.

In all the conversations we shared, my host family was never looking for pity, only understanding, exchange, and connection.  I’ve found that being able to live with people all around the world makes it easier to understand them. In the first month of our voyage I wrote in my blog, “I love to travel, and it is always going to be a part of me. Whether I am at home or on the other side of the world, I am at my best when I try to understand somebody else.” I will continue to seek out home-stay opportunities because I believe it’s the best way to experience a new culture when you’re seeing it through a local’s eyes.

While I was gone someone told me I was “a pretentious little girl, swooping in as the hero pretending to save third world countries.” After this woman had read what I wrote about my experience in Ghana this is the opinion she formed of me. I certainly know, and hope others can see, that traveling has not made me into this person that was portrayed to be. I know that my experience in Ghana will be one of the most memorable experiences in all of my travels. Living with these people and hearing their stories made me respect and admire their values, morals, and way of life. Everyone I met in my time in Ghana was fantastically happy, open minded, and humble. The day I left Ghana I chose to lead my life like those strong women I met. I want to live happily, embrace every day with an open mind, and I have been humbled by the people I met around the world.HomeagainHomeagain

When I woke up that morning I was greeted by the smiling face of my host mother and a “Good morning.”  I promised them photos, thanked them for all that they had given me, and hugged them goodbye. As I walked down the dirt road I knew I witnessed something special, and will never forget what I learned.

We will never really see the world unless we leave our comfort zone, but that is what I fully intend to do. Only through breaching the uncomfortable will you be able to have the moments that change you the most.

Neptune Day

By: Mackenzie Enich

March 23, 2013 ·

Neptune Day is the day a ship crosses the equator and there are many traditions that happen. Those of us who have not crossed the equator by water are known as pollywogs and when we cross over we transformed into shellbacks. The night before this is the email we received:

“Tomorrow marks our sail across the equator and King Neptune usually pays us a visit. We will celebrate his arrival with Neptune Day! Around 07:00, the festivities will begin and you will take the journey from pollywog to shellback by paying your respects to his highness and his royal court. Participation is not mandatory but highly encouraged – participate to your level of comfort! Wear a bathing suit and clothes you don’t mind getting a bit dirty and get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”

At 7:00am the crew came through the halls as a parade banging drums and ringing bells to get us all up to eat breakfast and get on to the seventh deck. We all crowded around the pool as the royal procession walked into the crowed. Many of the faculty became royalty like the queen, the royal shaver, and King Neptune himself (our captain painted green).

The traditions go in this order (at least for me). I stood in the side pool with my friends and we had fish guts poured on us. It was cold, red, and smelly. Then we turned around, held hands, screamed, and jumped into the pool. When we climbed out we had to kiss a fish and then King Neptune’s ring. If we didn’t, he would push us back into the pool. The last, most drastic, tradition is shaving your head as tribute to King Neptune. Of course all these traditions are optional. Of course I participated in all of it. Yes, I shaved my head.

Many people have assumed I planned to shave my head and they are shocked when I say it was spur of the moment. I won’t keep it this way, but no regrets.

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Mother and River

By: Mackenzie Enich

March 13, 2013

When I was a little girl my mother would take out the slide projector and shine the light on a little pop up screen that was wedged between two faded black arm chairs. The entire set up was old. The screen left green paint chips from the tripod legs on the carpet after it was put away and my mother always said the projector did not click through the slides as quickly as it used to. Even so, I begged often for the slides to be brought out so I could lay back on the carpet in the middle of the living room with my hands behind my head and watch the world go by through the photos of people’s faces to the tune of “Small Green Island.” I would say to my friends at school, “my mom has traveled the world” and smile proudly. And she has been around the world, she took a year to do it. All I ever wanted to do was grow up and do just as she had done; see the world.

eveningcandleMy mother is a retired junior high school geography teacher and one year during her teaching she applied for a sabbatical and bought an “around the world ticket” to see the places she was teaching about. I remember many of the stories my mother has told me over the years and I have even been lucky enough to visit a few of the places she talked about and have my own experiences. However one place with all of its stories has forever stood out in my mind, India.

The stories my mother told about Indian culture and people were always my favorite. I have leaned a fair amount about the Indian culture over the years and I am still passionate to learn more. My mother always said the Indian culture was a culture that existed in its own place and time.

I stand with my palms resting against a brass banister. I press the rest of my body up next to the cool gate to let the temperature seep through my clothes to my hot skin. I stand in front of the Hindu god, Shiva, the destroyer. The temple is cool compared to the outside air. It is especially cool on my bare feet.

I am in the inner shrine of a Shiva temple in the center of a Hindu University. This was one of the original temples in the holly city of Varanasi. This city is also known as the city of temples and the birth place of Shiva. There are over 100,000 temples in Varanasi dedicated only to Shiva.

As I stand against the gate I close my eyes and listen to the prayer. The voice comes from the man standing next to me, our guide and our Brahmin. His words soar around the room and fill its entirety. He knows the string of sand script words by heart and they pour out of him in a deep beautiful song.

It lasted three minutes. For three minutes my eyes were closed. For three minutes I wonder if I should be more religious. I am in my own way. I may not attend church or worship a particular deity but I am a religious person of the world. My spiritual feeling comes when I talk to people about their stories, when I begin to understand others. So for three minutes I give thanks to those who help me get where I am today, traveling around the world. For the rest of my life I give thanks to the people who allow me to try to understand and to those people who will always love me and support my passion for telling the truth around the world.

Later, I climbed two feet up into a bicycle rickshaw and Rebecca climbed in next to me. The hard plastic held our weight but the seat was questionable since it was only supported by two thin bicycle wheels. With the seat at a forward slope and there not much room for two people it was difficult to stay in the shallow seat. The only things holding us in seat was the fear of falling to the broken road and the dust. Our driver tightly wound a green and white striped scarf around his head, leaving a tail near his left ear before he climbed on his bike. Many of the other drivers tied similar scarves around their heads and climbed on their bikes.

We headed for the edge of the city, the most holly part of the city. It is where the Ganges river touches the edge of the city. The center of the city appears to live on the banks of the river. The wheels of our rickshaw splashed through puddles and bounced over broken speed bumps. Faces and hands flew by as we swerved and dodged cows and tuck tucks in the streets. I held on as we hit every pot hole and laughed with every time we missed a cow. Thirty minutes and one thousand people later we reached the banks of the Ganges.

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A set of 100 stairs leads down to the edge of the water. Holly men sit on the stair under orange tarp tents, entirely naked with their bodies painted in ash. The white ash makes their ebony skin grey and there long beards white. These men sit there on the steps, live on the banks of the river, and pray as the sun comes up until it goes down.

Every 12 years there is a festival (a sort of pilgrimage) held in Varanasi. The last one was in 2001 and 3.6 million people came to the city. The festival ended a few days ago. This year 5 million people made the journey to the city. That kind of energy would be incredible to see and beautifully dangerous. Someday, maybe in 12 years, I will get to see something like that.naked with their bodies painted in ash. The white ash makes their ebony skin grey and there long beards white. These men sit there on the steps, live on the banks of the river, and pray as the sun comes up until it goes down.

I step slowly on to the last cement step with locals and foreigners alike standing at the edge of the water as the river licks the bottom of the wooden boats. The boat gives into the water asI step on the front to get inside. The air is cool and the bugs hover over the water. Two men sit at one end of the boat with giant ores rowing us and down the river.

The set of stairs we came down is just one of 85 sets. There are 85 ghats up and down the bank of the Ganges, each 100 steps or more. They stretch as far as the eye can see down the river. Old buildings stand, on top of the stairs, with holes so the river wind can pass through them. These buildings were built by the wealthy over the years. The kings and queens of past lives left the bricks to stand as a guard over the river. Most of the buildings are empty although some are inhabited. They are all beginning to crumble toward the stairs and the color is starting to fade.

When the water turned dark with the reflection of the night sky the fires of the crematorium became more visible. Sparks flew as boys beat the burning logs with sticks. Massive logs, the size of whole trees were stacked ten feet tall all along the upper part of the bank. It takes 300 kg of wood to burn one body. Five fires glowed near the edge of the river. All the fires were being tended but all the funeral processions had left. Three bodies, covered in gold fabric, laid on the stairs to the right of the fire, waiting their turn to be burned. Down below the cremation four men stand in the shallow water, cleansing the ashes and taking what gold and silver is left over from the bodies. The families never come back to reclaim the metal.

Many people think there are bodies floating around the Ganges River and at one time it was true but not anymore. There are four types of people that are not allowed to be cremated. A monk, a pregnant women, a child under ten, and a person who died from a snake bite. In these particular cases the bodies are taken out to the middle of the river, tied to a rock, and left to sink. The only reason a body comes to the surface are if the river dolphin cuts the rope. The sparks of the fires drifted up to clouds as we sat and watched. Eventually we moved away up stream to say a prayer of our own.

I sat with a bowl in my hand containing a lit candle with small gold flowers around it. To my right our priest begins to sing a prayer in sand script again. I closed my eyes and held the candle close to feel the warmth of the flame on my nose and smell the flowers. I closed my eyes for three minutes.

After the deep voice of the prayer dissolved into the night air all that could be heard was the lapping of the river at the bottom of the boat. I opened my eyes, turned around, made my wish, and sent my candle down the river.

Every night seven priests do a light ceremony to give thanks to the mother river for allowing them to make it to the end of the day. Thousands of people crowded on the ghats and in the boats at the shore. We stayed in our boat and only tried to move through the hordes of people when the ceremony was over.

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It took 30 minutes to navigate through the streets back to where our rickshaws were parked. The lights were bright on the main road and all that could be heard was the incessant beeping of motor bikes trying to get through the crowd. It never works well. As westerners many people were trying to stop us and take photos of us. As women we often found ourselves surrounded by men. Orange, yellow, green, and blue sari clothed women rushed by. I only have six inches of space around me, less when a cow came walking down the street.

My mother always said the Indian culture was a culture that existed in its own place and time. She was correct. When I got to Varanasi I thought; this is India. Varanasi is all of what I thought my Indian experience would be. It is a whole other world. When I was a little girl and my mother showed her slides from India, I would close my eyes for three minutes and listen to her stories. For three minutes I would be in India with my mother. For three days I was here in my India. Someday I will be in India with my mother and we will experience it together. I take these few words to say thank you to my mother for forever inspiring my passion for traveling.

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Angels of God: Archbishop’s experience at the orphanage in Saigon

In 2013 spring semester I had a chance of a life time. For four months I studied on a ship and traveled around the world with the Semester at Sea program. We visited 12 different countries during the semster and I made some of my best friends in that four mounths. Here is the link to my blog and you can read it from start to finish if you like but I will be posting at least three of the posts. Hope you enjoy. If anyone is thinking of doing this program, let me know I would be happy to talk to you about it. http://globalbynature.wordpress.com

Mackenzie

By: McKenzie Enich

“Did you notice that human is very close to humanity? That means you can’t be human without compassion.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

In a room meant to hold 500 people, every chair is taken and many claim spots on the floor bringing the room over capacity. The room is utterly silent. For a while you could hear the shutter speeds of the cameras throughout the audience, capturing the speech. Now it was silent enough to hear him whisper, “You are all great. God started to cry and then a small angel came up to wipe the tears away. When he looked down at you and said thank you.”

He whispered thank you three times to the audience and walked away from the podium. The room was only silent for a moment. As he moved past everyone toward the exit, everyone stood. Applause erupted throughout the room. He kept walking and did not turn back when he reached the door. The applause did not stop until he was halfway down the hall.

Thank you.

Bangkok, Thailand: Part 3

tumblr_mqn0s8C66d1sx7w9mo3_1280 By: Dani Howlett

Today was my last day in Thailand.  This past week has been filled with school (2 papers and a final) and random outings each afternoon and night.  Today, our professor threw us a going away party at

his house, which was INCREDIBLE.  He lives about 45 minutes out of Bangkok, and his place is so awesome.  The landscape design is incredible, and the house is full of very expensive antiques.  Our professor, Anucha Thirakanont, is an amazing person.  First of all, he is very smart and was a great teacher. Also-he is a mini celebrity in Thailand, which we didn’t really know until recently.  He has worked on numerous cultural projects, doing things like preserving the royal ‘Khon’ dance and working on other projects for the Queen (who he knows personally).  He dresses amazingly and has impeccable taste-which was reflected in his house. I could go on and on and on, haha 🙂 He’s been a really great part of my summer experience. I’ve also grown close to our program coordinator, Jane.  She goes out of her way so much to make sure we are all happy, safe and comfortable, and she is HILARIOUS. We went out to a couple of clubs with her last weekend, which was really fun:) Everyone loves her to death.

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The last couple days have been filled with so many emotions, and goodbyes have been very difficult!  I have grown so close to my new friends, and it kills me to know that we probably won’t be seeing each other for a long time. Each and every one of us are wishing that we had done a full semester program-the summer program feels like such a teaser!

Despite a few tears and the difficulty to leave, I wouldn’t have changed anything about my summer.  I have learned so much about such a beautiful country and culture, and it has truly changed my life. Every local person that I’ve gotten to know has been exquisite-friendly, personable, and exceedingly helpful. We have seen numerous parts of the country, from the rice fields and rain forests to the bustling city and gorgeous beaches. My flight leaves at 5:50 AM, and I’m getting picked up from Amarin at 2:30 AM! (which is about 2 hours from now).I feel SO incredibly fortunate to have had this experience, and I really hope that I will be able to come back at some point in my life. Thailand is an amazing place, and the connections I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned here will stick with me for a lifetime.

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Bangkok, Thailand: Pt. 2

By: Dani Howlett

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This weekend, nine of us travelled from Bangkok to Ko Samet, an island off the southeast coast of Thailand. It was a crazy, beautiful, and eventful weekend to say the least! We arrived Friday evening and explored the beautiful beach that we were staying on (in a hotel for $14 a night once we split it!) Saturday morning we rented kayaks and went out on the ocean and explored around the island, it was gorgeous. The water was so warm and clear. That night, it started POURING rain. We ended up walking down the beach to a bar that was playing music, where people were dancing out on the stage in the downpour. We danced here for hours! It was such a fun time.

The next morning, four of us rented motorcycles an drove them around the island. This was kinda scary, because the roads on Ko Samet are terrible and people are whizzing around on ATVs and motorcycles everywhere. It was a good time though-lots of adrenaline! After that we went and got facials and massages (super cheap here!)

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The last day (today) was a little crazy. We had to catch a boat back to the mainland, then a van back to Bangkok, witnessed in my life. Our boat pulls up right on the beach, so we ran out into the waves and pouring rain. Our clothes and all of our stuff was immediately soaked. We were all laughing and full of adrenaline at first, but after we had to make two more stops and our friend started throwing up off of the boat, the novelty wore off. After a slightly scary boat ride we finally made it back to the pier. We were dripping wet but so happy to be back.a cab to our hotel, but things ended up getting a little more complicated. To start off, one of the girls had really bad food poisoning and couldn’t hold anything down. And it was monsooning, as in the hardest downpour I have ever then

We caught our van, but then 2 hours later he dropped us off in an extremely busy square and we had no idea where we were. We didn’t even know if we were in Bangkok yet. So after struggling through some directions given to us by a cop, we made it onto the skytrain. After the skytrain we caught a cab to our hotel, now here I am!! Finally!

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Despite a couple hitches, it was a fantastic weekend. We met some amazing locals, including a young Thai girl who came and sat in the ocean with us while it was raining one night. She just wanted to talk with us, even though she didn’t speak much English. That is a moment I will never forget 🙂 Her family ran a little crepe stand right on the beach, and we saw her and talked to her all weekend after that. I am learning so much and having so many experiences here, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip will bring 🙂

Elevators

By: Danielle Barnes-Smith

I never learned how to ride an elevator.

Now don’t judge, just listen.

You have to understand where I come from. Eureka, Montana. Go ahead, Google it. You’ll discover that the name Eureka (Greek for “I found it”) is meant to be ironic considering how few people have found themselves living there. But one of the characters in The Host is from Eureka, MT, so what does your town have?Danielle1
Our town was once know as the Christmas Tree capital of the United States. Once. Now it’s all Border. And it is small. There are no elevators. Correction, there is one elevator. In the clinic. I don’t know if it’s ever been used. But when it went up in 2007 (guesstimation), it caused an upset. It was believe that Eureka was Modernizing at a rate equatable to China (I’m taking a Chinese history class, so I know that that is very quickly).

Having grown up in a town without elevators, I had few opportunities to use such a contraption. Also, I am generally anti-elevator unless carrying luggage. So, other than when at a hotel, I hardly ever ride elevators. I have been able to avoid them.

But not in the Boole Library.

In the Boole Library, the stairs are hidden. I saw them once in a dream, but I can’t find them in real life. And so I have to ride the elevator. And I don’t know the etiquette.

Often I find myself waiting for the elevator to arrive to the second floor (which would be the third floor in the States). As soon as the elevator dings and opens, one person will appear from the rafters and get on. Now I don’t want to get on with one person. It’s weird and unnatural to ride in a small box with a stranger. It’s not because I distrust them. It’s just because. So then I hesitate. Well you can’t get on once you’ve hesitated. They’ll wonder, “Why did that girl just hesitate? What does she have to hesitate about?” So, naturally, you have to put on an expression that says, “Oh, I don’t need to leave this floor. I can live here,” and walk away. This, unfortunately, leads to me being trapped on the second/third floor. Once, when I finally got on the elevator, someone got on after me. I once saw in a TV show that you’re suppose to watch the numbers above the door. So I fixed my gaze there. There were no numbers. The numbers were on the side. But I was committed to staring at the perfectly blank space until the elevator stopped. When the elevator stopped, I realized I knew the person I was on the elevator with. So, to the guy in my Shakespeare class who is also in the Dramat society where we talked that one time, I’m not really that rude.
I just don’t know how to ride an elevator.

Which brings me to my point (yes, this was all leading to something).

Studying abroad is this very peculiar thing for many reasons. It’s a little strange to be like “hey, I’m almost done with

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school, I think I’ll move for a year,” but it has it’s benefits. Sure, you learn more about another culture/country/way of thinking, but you also learn more about yourself. Most people study abroad their junior year, and good thing, because that’s the year you fool yourself into thinking your ready for the looming “real-life.” Studying abroad makes you vulnerable again. And it isn’t always just being in another country. For me, studying abroad has put me in a place where I can no longer avoid the elevators in my life.

So if you’re considering studying/volunteering/working abroad, I suggest it. Highly. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll be googling elevator etiquette.

Check out this link for fun Irish sayings! Top 50 Irish Sayings 

Also, here is a picture of roses from my husband in a Guinness glass that may or may not have been taking from a nearby pub.

Bangkok, Thaliand: Part 1

By: Dani Howlett  

Hello!  It has been 5 and a half days since I left Montana on my journey to Bangkok, and they have been days filled with exploration and exhilaration!

After traveling for over 30 hours and stopping in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Tokyo along the way, I arrived in Bangkok and met my new roommate from Tennessee.  We were picked up at arrivals and taken about 45 minutes to our hotel in Old Bangkok. Even though it was dark, the drive was amazing.  We passed under intricately decorated bridges, which were lit up and featured massive framed pictures of the king. The traffic here moves at light speed compared to anywhere in the U.S., with taxis, mopeds, and buses all coming within inches of each other at

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We arrived at our hotel at about midnight.  We came into our room to find that there were no blankets, towels, toilet paper, or other amenitieshigh speeds.

there for us. Kelsey and I met up with two other guys in the program, and

went out in search of some of the essentials.  By this time it was almost 1 AM, so we didn’t travel too far before

giving up and stopping. Sitting out on the street with my new friends, greeted by so many new sights and smells, I felt completely euphoric. Even though I had only been here for an hour, I could already tell that this trip was going to be even better than I expected! 🙂  Around 2 AM, we made our way back to our rooms at finally went to sleep.

Trying to find our school or any sort of department store was quite a challenge for us on the first day.  We walked and walked and walked, but we were seeing new and exciting things the entire time so it didn’t matter.  We walk through street markets pretty much every day to get around, all of which are 

tumblr_mpcqdcVZxE1sx7w9mo1_1280amazing.  SO MUCH is packed onto the sidewalks. You’ll see anything from entire fried fish and exotic looking fruits to knives to huge Buddha statues for sale.  Prices are low (bartering is key) and there is honestly something for everyone. Everything is so close together and it is SO hot that it is kind of hard to shop, but it all adds to the experience!We only slept for about three hours, woke up at 6 AM, and headed right out to explore. We walked around the entire day, and saw a ton of new and exciting things.  Though the inside of our hotel is very clean and nice, we are definitely living in the more run down part of the city.  The sidewalks are kept clean, but certain areas are very dirty and smell pretty bad.  Most of the buildings are pretty decrepit as well.  Even though it is so different, I am really happy that we are located where we are.  I feel like we are getting a better feel of Thailand than the people who stay in the center of New Bangkok or in the beach resorts,which is awesome 🙂

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Also when shopping and trying to get around, the language barrier has been difficult. But with a phrase book and a little charades we have been able to get around pretty well!  Gheet, the owner of the restaurant right next door to our hotel, teaches us new words every time we go in there.  He is so warm and friendly, and has already added a lot to the trip.  Almost every Thai person who speaks at least a little English is so nice and welcoming to us. Today (July 1) a man working at a spa told me he loved me four times, haha.

Anways, after we got back to the hotel from the school, we met up with three other girls in our program.  We walked to dinner at this great restaurant just down the street and I got my first meal in Thailand! It was some egg noodle dish with chicken, and it was delicious.  After that, we came home and I finally caught up on sleep 🙂

The next day, Saturday, was a little slower paced, which was nice.  We did a couple errands and got traditional Thai massages for $8 an hour (which is apparently pretty steep). Either way, it was an AMAZING two hours. I feel so lucky to even be here in the first place, then things like this REALLY make me feel spoiled.

Sunday, I met up with Ashika, Laura, and Jen, and we took the sky train downtown to a massive mall. This was a wild day for me, because I have never been anywhere nearly this big.  The skytrain track just towers over the streets below, but barely makes it a fraction of the way up the massive sky scrapers that it runs in between.  We spent the day at the biggest mall I’ve ever been to, full of things like Gucci, Prada, and so on.  We got delicious food there and walked around for hours.

Monday was orientation for school! The entire group of us met up and walked and took the ferry to campus, which is probably a 20 minute commute.  The orientation was set up really well, and everyone who spoke seemed awesome. We went over our agenda for the month, and we are going to be doing some really amazing things, I am beyond excited!!!  We bought our uniforms and went to lunch, then made our way back to the hotel.

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Later on that afternoon, seven of the girls and I took taxis to Khao San Road, which is much more touristy than anywhere else we have been, but for good reason! It was SO awesome! Its full of awesome shopping and bars and food and massage places and all of that stuff.  We went to the spa and got ‘fish pedicures’.  We sat side by side and put our feet into huge tanks full of ‘garra rafa’ fish, and they nibbled at our feet for 15 minutes. It was CRAZY feeling haha but we had so much fun! Then we went out to a couple of different bars, which was awesome, then got food and came home 🙂

Sorry this one was so long! I had some catching up to do but from now on I will try to update this regularly and make the posts a lot shorter 🙂 I’m off to our first day of class!

Disappointment

By: Danielle Barnes-Smith

The thing about studying abroad/relationships/life-in-general is that it’s full of disappointment.
They call it “culture shock.” It’s kind of like when someone mashes cauliflower so that the dish looks like mashed potatoes and calls it “nutritious.”

I call it disappointment.

It’s disappointing because through our kitchen window we can see beautiful lights and an old church, but if you look down you see garbage that washed up from some litter hurricane and air conditioner that definitely serves no purpose to humanity anymore.

It’s disappointing because even though tickets to Paris are cheap, cheap can still be expensive when you’re in college and newlywed (who would have known?).

It’s disappointing because a lot of expectations don’t get filled.

When I was accepted to study abroad, I still had several months before the departure date on the plane tickets, so there was plenty of time to romanticize. I imagined I would have been to London, Scotland, and the Stonehenge within the first month. I imagined that the water wouldn’t give me a weird stomach thing (although bad gas is a really good way to tell if your spouse truly loves you). I imagined I would make twenty Irish friends and have drank my share of Guinness.

I have yet to go to London, Scotland, or Stonehenge because time and money is surprisingly short. The water does give me a weird stomach thing. I haven’t made any Irish friends. And buying Guinness all the time is actually quite expensive and fattening.

So it’s full of disappointment. In order to avoid the disappointment, I advise avoiding going abroad at all. It’s much easier.

However, if you still want an incredible experience, don’t stop reading.

Incredible experience? But, Danielle, you just whined a lot and told us way too much about your digestion.

Well that’s the thing about studying abroad/relationships/life-in-

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general, the best parts are the parts that we don’t have time to romanticize about.

I have not gone to London, Scotland, or Stonehenge, but I have kissed the Blarney Stone, experienced Fota Wildlife Park, and ventured through Ring of Kerry.

The water does do something weird to my stomach, but it’s worth it for how great the butter and goat cheese is here (I’m not even joking).

I have not made twenty Irish friends, but, if I can be so cheesy, I have made some really great European friends and been more social that I am normally inclined to (I’ve made fun of Germans more often than I am normally inclined it). And I’ve had a few pints of Guinness (it’s good with Blackcurrant syrup).

Studying abroad in Ireland is not what I imagined it would be. School is different (not harder, not easier, different). Sometimes I don’t know what anyone is talking about (what is the meaning of pudding?). But if anything is for sure, anything at all, studying abroad, relationships, life: they are all worth it.