?יש טרמפ

The day started off innocently enough: 3 room-mates want to go to the Dead Sea. We packed our lunches (in my case a banana and a hard boiled egg) and trekked over to a bus stop to await the 486 direct to the Dead Sea. We took about an hour’s lesson in patience waiting for the bus to arrive while simultaneously realizing several individuals had waited at the same bus stop and been picked up by cars/drivers with friendly smiles… hitchhikers

One thing to note about my room-mates & I: We do love a good adventure.

As it turns out many Kibbutz or settlement members who need rides in any general direction wait around allocated bus stops where other members of these kinds of communities stop and offer a ride if they are traveling in the same general direction. It sounded good enough to us so we hitched. Our first driver was a young woman who listened to American pop music and didn’t like the Dead Sea so much, but recommended a visit to the German Colony which I will take her advice on. With her the view outside the window transformed from city to dessert. She dropped us off by another bus stop because she would be traveling soon in an opposite direction to the place where we were headed and so we again showed our thumbs up to the road and awaited the next slice of the adventure.

Our next driver a woman who had recently returned from living in Italy for 3 years with her medical student husband and two sons.  She was the essence of hospitality. We spoke Italian nearly the entire car ride. We learned about how she had recently discovered her passion for voice/theatre and dance and about how she hadn’t realized her whole life that was her passion, but now that she knew it she was doing everything to learn about it. She recommended villages and kibbutzim with arts communities for us to visit. The original plan had been to be dropped off along the way at one of the Dead Sea beaches but the conversation was so lovely and she was so proud of her village that she invited us to come see her home and that of her friend who had recently built a room made of mud. We were intrigued beyond belief, and curiosity carried us there. The settlement was awesome, there is a different form of living here usually found in kibbutz where communities of people work together to operate a functioning society of their own, including sharing possessions and paychecks. We met her family, her two adorable sons and her friend’s family as well with their 4 beautiful daughters. All smiles. Her husband then drove up to the Dead Sea beach Minerale and we hopped out of the 3rd ride of the day beyond ready to refresh the arid dessert away in the salty water.

The Dead Sea is unlike anything you’ve experienced. The density of the water makes it so that you just float, and I promise you’re never ready for how cool that feels. The water itself feels a little like oil, in a very good way. It tastes brutally salty. You can also pick up some Dead Sea mud and rub it all you’re your body essentially cleaning every pore, and we so did.  I recommend keeping it away from your face though, my eyes learned that the hard way. We floated, mudded, and danced around and even met a woman from Denmark who gave us a few hitchhiking tips and suggested we walk around the parking lot asking people for rides, seeing as we didn’t know how we would get back yet.

So we did.

Israeli hospitality is unrivaled. But I can’t say the same for speculative tourists. It makes sense, they have no reason to believe these 3 girls want an innocent ride to Jerusalem, they are in this strange new world too. We finally asked a couple in the parking lot who said they were sorry and were going the opposite direction and with that just decided to start walking along the road in the middle of the dessert with no real idea of what would happen next but continually giant smiles and this great big feeling about the beauty of life. The couple found us again and said they could take us where they were going where there would be a lot of cars because it wasn’t in the middle of the dessert and maybe it would be easier to catch a hitch from there. We weren’t in the position to question open doors so we went for it. The fourth ride of the day was with a man from Geneva and a woman who had been traveling throughout Europe for months, a visual artist. It was her 3rd day in Israel. They drove us through the dessert to Beer Sheva. She also gave us a tip “Ask where they are going first, if you don’t trust them… say you’re sorry you’re trying to go somewhere else.” We talked a lot, I told her about my fascination with the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain and about my desires for creating instillation dance works. I learned that she recently had an exhibition with charcoal and water color and that art is being redefined for her in these travels. The man Nikolai works for an Israeli organization called Dream Doctors that puts clowns in hospitals to help children with illnesses, they play music and tell jokes, bring puppies… things to make children smile. His grandfather founded it. He also is apparently a really talented guitarist. We drove for a little over an hour and they dropped us off at another bus stop but not before stopping along the way to Masada and other beautiful sight-see places.

By the time we were at our last bus stop it was night time and we really didn’t know what we were going to do. This is the point in time in which I ate my hard-boiled egg. It felt so surreal to again put our hands out in the road, thumbs a blazing. So many cars rushed past us on this highway. I didn’t know at all if we would find a ride or not. At this point we had a contingency plan. We could always call the couple back and ask for a ride with them back to Tel Aviv, they felt like friends. We couldn’t stop laughing at how we ended up here in the first place. What if that bus had showed up? Just as I lost a smidge of hope and car reverses up to us.

A man who spoke only Hebrew. Where was he going? To Lod. Which is smack dab in between Tel Aviv and Jersualem. He said he could maybe take us to Tel Aviv and from there we would have to find a taxi or Sherut back to Jerusalem. It was better than where we were and I had a good sense about him. I hopped in the front because I felt good about my ability to speak communicate is Hebrew. Up to now we had been lucky with drivers speaking in all kinds of languages we understood. But I too was lucky in having been gifted a decent enough memory to soak in the lessons of Ulpan Hebrew Intensive. We got to know this man. As it turns out he is a police man who was on his way to Lod to pick up a blind date, a woman he had only spoken to on the phone and seen the picture of but never met. It would be their first date and we would be along for the ride. We joked about the situation, what if it turned out she looked nothing like the picture? We played these what if games in a strange cross-breed of English, Hebrew, and physical comedy. And actually for me, it was the most fun ride of the day. He had a son our age and a daughter 16 and we got to see pictures from his phone of his family and the woman he would meet. So, we all went to pick her up.

The entire wait outside her place I just wished and prayed this woman was as beautiful as her picture foretold and that it wasn’t some internet hoax because I felt like this man deserved that. And BINGO! She was lovely. And even lovelier because she agreed to change their date plans to ride into Jerusalem instead which meant we didn’t have to take a pit stop to Tel Aviv 45 minutes away, and then figure it out all over again. We were one step closer to “home” בסדר הכל

Finally getting to Jerusalem was again completely surreal. We hoped out thanked the man for his graciousness and hopped straight into a taxi, the 6th ride of the night headed finally for the Hebrew University Student Village. The entire taxi ride I was deliriously smiling, laughing, imaging the parallel universes where this trip went very differently. Wow…

It’s still the best word to describe how I feel.

For me it was about trust. It was about trusting my intuition. There were a lot of choices to be made. Cars to get in to, things to not do, and I found that if I was tuned in to my intuition and I was calm I made the right choices. The right choices as in trusting other people as well, roommates and strangers alike.

For me it was also about finding a balance between knowing exactly where you want to go (Dead Sea and Jerusalem) and also being open to not knowing where you will go in between.

Satisfying my sense of adventure brought me more peace than I can say.

All my Best,

Debbie

הכל בסדר

Pronounced: hacol beseder

Literal Translation: everything is OK!

But what I’m saying is: it’s all good

? יש טרמפ

Pronounced: yesh tramp

Literal Translation: yes you have hitchhiking?

But what I’m saying is: Can you give me a ride?

Celebrating Purim In Israel

This post comes a few days later than normal because I wanted to share with you my experiences celebrating my first big Jewish holiday in Israel. This past weekend was Purim, and let’s just say, it was shy of anything boring.

A little background: Purim is the celebration of the Jewish people being freed from the cruel governance of Haman. A right-hand man to the king of Persia, Haman had planned to execute all of the Jews living in the empire. When it’s revealed that the king’s wife (Esther) is in fact Jewish, the king instead executes Haman, saving the entire Jewish community.

Because the Jews were saved, Purim is considered to be a festive and joyous holiday celebrated in the springtime each year. There are four main mitzvot, or good deeds, that make up the holiday. The first is to listen to the Megillah reading, which is the scroll of Esther. It’s customary for people to use noisemakers called “groggers” whenever Haman’s name is said. The next item on the to-do list is giving charity to at least two people. The third mitzvah is to send mishloach manot (food baskets) to friends and family. Finally, it’s customary to eat a large festive meal, drink and celebrate.

The actual holiday took place on Saturday and Sunday, but people in Tel Aviv began celebrating on Thursday. Everywhere I went, people of all ages were dressed up in crazy costumes celebrating in the streets. (Purim is compared to Halloween in the U.S.) My friends and I spent the first half of the weekend venturing out to all the different parties and events that were being hosted across the city. The first night we all wore masquerade masks, and the second night I dressed up as Minnie Mouse. The streets were bustling, the nightclubs were packed and everywhere you looked people were celebrating this joyous holiday.
 photo a817b5d2-bfd4-4e98-af8e-9ca7a4a75ecb.jpg
 photo bd74858c-4883-4f68-b8c9-a76fea697f70.jpg
(Photos courtesy of Arielle Weingast)
 photo 1959552_10152329828012354_219235881_n.jpg

On Sunday, the actual day of Purim, my friends and I participated in a school-organized trip to Bnei Brak. This is an ultra-Orthodox area of Israel where the most religious Jews live. Just 20 minutes from the Tel Aviv University campus, Bnei Brak immediately felt different as soon as we stepped off the bus. The streets were crowded with hoards of children and adults, some dressed in costumes while others remained in their traditional religious garb. People were singing, dancing and shouting songs and prayers throughout the community for hours on end. Because Purim is such a festive holiday, it is considered a mitzvah for even the most religious Jews to eat, drink and be merry for the entire day.
 photo 1557563_10152332806537354_1387152862_n.jpg
 photo 1511429_10152332807962354_1979944878_n.jpg
 photo 1969208_10152332807552354_1077404945_n.jpg

At the end of our tour, we got the opportunity to go into a well-known rabbi’s house in the community. Here, all of his closest friends and family were celebrating together. It was difficult to communicate with them because everyone spoke only Hebrew (a huge difference from the modern Tel Aviv I’ve been used to), but luckily our helpful counselors were able to translate. Below is a video of the men dancing and singing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4LMWB7R2aQ&feature=youtu.be

And of course, how could I forget the best part of Purim? Hamantaschen! These are the customary desserts made for the holiday. The triangular-shaped cookies represent Haman’s hat and are made all over Israel. The cookies are typically filled with chocolate, jelly, dried fruit or poppy seeds, and they are delicious! Although I’ve had my fair share of Hamantaschen (thanks to my mom being a great baker), Israeli-made ones definitely top anything I’ve had. Some places in the city even made decadent variations like sweet potato and PB & J!
 photo 563241_10152329820297354_341947201_n.jpg

Being able to spend Purim in Israel was so meaningful to me. It was very interesting celebrating the same holiday but with different groups of people all in the same country. In one sense I was celebrating in the modern world at popular nightclubs with tons of young people. In another sense, I was celebrating with some of most religious and traditional Jews in the world. It was such an eye-opening weekend, and I can’t wait to experience more holidays while I’m here.
 photo 1979478_10152332803292354_438952669_n.jpg

Where the Three Countries Meet

This weekend was occupied by an extremely informative excursion to the Golden Triangle, a region in Northern Thailand where Lao, Thailand, and Burma meet. During this four day trip there was a mixture of sights and education that provided a diverse expierence I wouldn’t get unless studying abroad.

The first of these was the temple Wat Rong Khun, a modern, unconventional Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. This temple was absolutely spectacular as the architect ensured to highlight more hellish aspects of Buddhism, which was actually a great change of pace from the other temples I witnessed beforehand.

Though the temple was beautiful, the murals inside describing the corruption of our world was a lot of American imagery. This included cultural figures like Michael Jackson and minions from the Despicable Me series, droids from the Star War series, and even President Bush. While interesting, it was a bit painful to find these images as they are apart of a commentary on the role America plays in Thailand.

Despite this aesthetic choice, I also visited the architecture’s museum of numerous paintings. Cool souvenirs were purchased, but I am still debating on whether or not I want to give them away or use them to decorate my room when I get back to the States.

Outside the wondrous temple, we also learned a lot about opium and its role in Thai history. We visited Doi Mesalong Nok, a large tea plantation that was once a poppy plantation. While beautiful, it was surreal knowing what the land had been used for in the past.

This fascination continued as we visited one of the most infamous Thai drug lord’s compound. Many of the structures within the compound were unnerving, especially this hole which served to punish drug addicts by leaving them underground until they were ‘cured.’

One of the main reasons we attended this trip was to see the Golden Triangle. The Mekong River links these three countries and a boat ride along its current was a nice, relaxing part of the trip.

Finally, we visited the town of Mesai, which serves as the boarder between Thailand and Burma. While I did not cross over, I still appreciated the opportunity of being able to. Instead, I chose to indulge with the Chinese-influenced cuisine that is more common in Northern parts of Thailand. With a full stomach, I found a breathtaking view of Burma shown above.

With only two weeks left, including the disheartening midterms approaching, it makes my days in the land of smiles more bittersweet. But going on trips such as this, as exhaustive as they are, instantly brightens my spirits in living out the days as best I can. I only hope I can make room for studying.

Carnaval for Spring Break

Carnival, or Carnaval in Portuguese, is like nothing else I have ever experienced. In Brazil, it is one, if not the, biggest holiday. Everything shuts down completely and even ATM’s run out of money. Those who love it all hit the streets to participate in the blocos, and those, like my host family, who don’t stay inside, shut the windows, and enjoy the time off from work.

Os Blocos

Que alegriaaaa o Carnaval! Let the blocos, happiness, parades, dancing etc continue!!! #carnaval #rio #brasil #blocos

The blocos in Rio are a major part of Carnaval. Essentially, they are street parties in which thousands of people gather to celebrate and follow the bandas, or Samba bands. These bandas can be live or taped and typically play Samba music from a float as people sing along, dance, and cheer around them. One of the famous blocos in which I participated was called Simpatia É Quase Amor. According to Riotur, over 150,000 foliões, or Carnaval goers, participated in this bloco. Following typical Carnaval tradition, people were dressed in all sorts of costumes and outfits. The excitement was amazing! It’s impossible to understand completely the happiness and energy that filled the street. My friends and I followed the banda for over an hour as we danced and attempted to sing along to the lyrics written on a pamphlet. Everywhere you looked you saw smiling faces and partying. After blocos officially end, people remain in the streets and head to the next one! With over 450 blocos in Rio during the week Carnaval, you didn’t have to go far to find another. At all hours of the day there are multiple blocos in different parts of the city.

Simpatia É Quase Amor, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Os Desfiles

DSCN4056

DSCN4197

On Monday, we went to see the famous desfiles or parades where all the best Samba schools compete during Carnaval. Each samba school presents a theme and tells a story through their parade. Six Samba schools performed that night and impressed the judges with their Samba technique, floats, costumes, and varying themes ranging from homages to the famous Brazilians Ayrton Senna (Formula 1 racer) and Zico (Arthur Antunes Coimbra, Flamengo soccer player) to a tribute to our childhood days. Everything was incredibly elaborate. I have never seen anything like it! The Macy’s Day Parade cannot even compare with this show. We watched in amazement from the start at 9pm until finish around 6am. In preparation, we arrived early to get good seats and brought plenty of food and drinks to last us the eleven hours.

DSCN4221

DSCN4237

DSCN4186

DSCN4110

Yes, they are real people touching hands in the center!

DSCN4125

DSCN4144

Legos!

DSCN4190

If you are interested in more of my Carnaval pictures, visit my Flickr page here. It was difficult for my basic point-and-shoot camera to capture it all, but I tried. Nothing measures up to being there in person!

After a week of Carnaval, I am ready to return to class work today! I took advantage of enjoying Carnaval every day, and absolutely loved it; however, this past week I’ve spent a lot more money than expected (although worth it) and gained at least two pounds (also worth it). With that being said, I am ready to return to my regular routine. This week couldn’t go on forever!

Until the next time! Beijos

European Adventures: Barcelona

Last Friday, I packed up my bags and headed out bright and early for a weekend unlike any other so far. My destination? Barcelona. My closest friends are studying abroad there, so I just had to see what the hype was.

I arrived to Barcelona at 11 a.m. after a four-hour flight from Tel Aviv. I was itching to get off the plane and meet up with my friends, but the airport’s Wi-Fi wasn’t working, so there was no way of me getting in touch with them. So, like any other 20-year-old in a foreign country, I just went with flow. I got on a city bus that my friends said would take me directly to their school’s campus and hoped for the best. I obviously got off at the wrong stop but was immediately comforted when I saw a Tutti Frutti yogurt shop across the street. I was able to use the Wi-Fi there, get in touch with my friends and was with them 15 minutes later. As always, fro-yo saves the day.
 photo 10001406_10152302156602354_1733887566_n.jpg

After dropping my things at their apartment, we were off for a day of food, fun and LOTS of walking. Our first stop was a brunch place called Milk. It was small, quaint and delicious. I ordered a vegetarian omelet, of course. We then walked for what seemed like hours on end. I saw the famous Arc de Triompf, beautiful cathedrals and famous tourist spots like La Rambla. We also went to La Boqueria, which is a marketplace that reminded me exactly of Israel’s shuks. There was tons of fresh produce, meat and candy. By 6 p.m. I was ready for a little siesta, so we relaxed and napped before having dinner at a local restaurant.
 photo 1975135_10152302156057354_1179976121_n.jpg
 photo 13248_10152302156372354_1655249237_n.jpg
 photo 1779188_10152302157907354_388219198_n-1.jpg

The next day, more of our UF friends arrived so we ate, walked and ate some more. We had brunch at an outdoor restaurant called Picnic where I enjoyed eggs Benedict and quinoa hash browns. (For all those who are skeptical of quinoa, they were actually amazing!) We walked all over the city, window-shopped and of course took tons of photos in front of every fountain and piazza. The weather was much colder than I’ve been used to, so I had to bundle up with fuzzy socks and gloves midday. In true Barcelona fashion, we didn’t eat dinner that night until 11:30 p.m.! We sat outside at a tapas place and ordered a few dishes to share. They even gave us blankets to fight the cold temperatures. We finished the night off at the infamous nightclub, Opium.
 photo 1911781_10152302159187354_1214303729_n.jpg

On the last day, I got my final glimpse of the beautiful city. We rented a four-person bicycle and peddled around Barcelona’s marina. It was breezy and cold, but I definitely worked up a sweat because the bike only had two seats with pedals. The area we rode around was so beautiful and much different than Tel Aviv. Though Barcelona and Tel Aviv have much in common (i.e. beautiful beaches, a port, open markets, etc.), there are many differences as well. The city of Barcelona was much more spread out, historical and clean looking. All of the buildings had gorgeous architectural elements, which really made me feel like I was in Europe versus the Middle East.
 photo -1.jpg
(Photo Courtesy of Briana Glick)
 photo 534075_10152302165247354_1945491146_n.jpg

Overall, my trip to Barcelona was definitely one for the books. I was so happy to be reunited with my fellow Gators and even happier to have traveled to yet another new place on this unforgettable adventure abroad.
 photo 1911725_10152302159592354_1673828255_n.jpg

Happy St. Blaise Day!

*This post is a couple weeks late*

After being home in America for a month, it was time to head back to Dubrovnik. It was so nice to see my friends and family and I even got to celebrate my 21st birthday the traditional American way, but I was ready to return!

IMG_6350I picked the right time to return because the next day was a huge celebration in the city. It was a wonderful way to be greeted by the locals! Just kidding. They were celebrating St. Blaise Day or in Croatian Sv. Vlaho. It is a yearly celebration that commemorates their city Saint, which is St. Blaise. He is the saint that supposedly protects the throat so whenever someone would get sick or has a big singing concert they would go to the church to get blessed. In Croatia each city has its own Saint, but Dubrovnik’s celebration is special. Communities around Croatia come to Dubrovnik for the weekend and participate in all the events.

IMG_6253

IMG_6236My roommate and I woke up at 7:00AM from the tambourines banging outside our window. When we looked out we saw a long line of people down the street waiting for their turn in the parade. The city was jam-packed and it was hard to get a good spot for the parade, but we managed. We watched as the little kids walked down the street with the nuns and as the Cardinals of Croatia were blessing everyone in the city. We even got to see the President of Croatia! He would often stop so the children could run up and hug him. It was adorable.

IMG_6298

IMG_6289

IMG_6269Sometimes I would see pictures of traditional costumes around Dubrovnik, but today I got to see them all worn around the city! Each community had different styles and colors. Monika was able to point out which communities were from the north and which communities came from Bosnia. The little kids dressed up were the cutest!

IMG_6334

IMG_6319

IMG_6317

IMG_6308Throughout the day many Church services were help and many cannons were released. The city was crowded the entire day with families remembering their Saint. It was a wonderful time to return to the city I missed so much.

IMG_6310

Climbing Uphill

Now that the second official week of school is over I’ve finally been able to get a grip. Going to a small Arts school within a giant Floridian campus is nothing like going to a large Art School that sits on its own in the middle of a Jerusalem Winter. The hallways are different and not loitered with familiar faces, the class schedules are in Hebrew (so it’s good that I can read it a bit), and the ideology behind dance training is not a kind I’ve been exposed to.

Week 1: Overwhelming

Because I had been living in Jerusalem for about a month at this point I didn’t expect starting classes would be much of a culture shock. Up to that point I’d begun growing accustomed to Jerusalem culture: spotting Orthodox Jews in black suits was norm; riding the lite-rail/buses was a daily practice. It hadn’t even occurred to me that school has its own culture.  Just like UF’s School of Theatre & Dance this one has its hang-out spots, friend groups, and even its prejudices. Students are students, anywhere. Because it’s a shared school of Music & Dance at any given moment you can hear 5 pianos and 2 sopranos belting from the heart. So how do you jump in to that? Regimented dance training does not a social experience make.

I’ve been told while in Jerusalem that Israeli people can be like cacti, with a touch and prickly exterior but a warm kind personality once you get to know them. I have seen that in large part to be the case which leads me to….

Week 2:  Getting Better!

After week 1, I decided to make some changes. The first week here is known as “shopping week” in which essentially you take as many classes as you want in order to decide if you want to commit to them or not. By week 2… or even 3 you get to settle down.

My first change involved class schedules, I changed 50% of my original choices, something I’ve never done in the past and was 100% happier for it.

My second change involved smiling more. When I didn’t know which way was up or down I was focused on getting from point A to B. When I decided the space between A and B mattered too I didn’t care as much about up or down. What I mean to say is: when I stopped stressing about having to know what I was doing I found that a lot of people were willing to help me figure it out. And in this way the faces that looked at me suspiciously/ curiously Day 1, grew warmer.

I realize being here how spoiled UF had made me. There wasn’t a pass through the hallway where there wasn’t a friend to hug or at least some sunshine to soak if I stepped outside. I don’t have that here, not yet. But there are dancers I can smile at, who smile back and give me hope about what school-culture here can be.  And there are also really cool beanbags to nap on…

One last thing:

My walks to school are uphill climbs, literally. I am trekking and working out calf muscles daily just to get to class… I’m just gonna say…there’s a metaphor in there somewhere!

All my best,

Debbie

G’day From the Land Down Under

The week of my flight I was completely calm, not even mildly concerned that I hadn’t packed, didn’t have a bank account, and couldn’t tell you which courses I was enrolling in.  Even the night before I left, when I learned that my connecting flights to and from Atlanta were cancelled, my spirit was unchanged. I had an absolute sense of calm, probably because my mother had enough nerves for the both of us.  Through research and patience, the suitcases were finally packed, the bank account was opened, the courses were registered for, and the connections were changed.  The worry didn’t set in until I looked out the Virgin Australia plane and saw brown.

EVERYTHING WAS BROWN!!!  What happened to the lush landscapes that I had seen in the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of photos I had found on Google?  I had heard that there were brush fires in Melbourne, but could they really be this close to my university campus?  Yes, yes they were.  I was suddenly second-guessing everything I thought I knew about Australia and my decision to study abroad.

After arriving on campus and finding my dorm room, I opened my computer, ready to have contact with America after thirty hours of traveling.  My jaw dropped and my body filled with panic as the words “unable to connect” appeared on my computer.  How would I contact my family, figure out the bus schedules, or find information on the pre-orientation trip I was supposed to attend the next day.  I decided to try my luck in the common room and found a group of people streaming a Miami Heat game (well at least they have good taste).  Having just discovered how to access the internet, they were eager to share their knowledge.  I can’t even begin to say how thankful I am that I entered that room.  Emily, Becca, Sam and I have been inseparable since then.  I definitely wouldn’t have gotten through these two weeks of orientation without them.  Yes, I said two weeks.  Yes, they are just as boring as orientation at home.

The main thing that has helped me adjust to life abroad is putting myself out there.  Just asking how to get on the wi-fi provided me with a truly amazing support system.  Luckily the people I found were also international students, in the same boat as me, but the Aussies have been just as accommodating.  La Trobe University has been helpful.  I was able to learn how to use Melbourne’s public transportation during The Amazing Race, signed up for a school trip to Phillip Island, and have not had to make dinner once this week.  The pre-orientation trip, also promoted by the school, allowed for me to make friends and have familiar faces on campus.  This experience has already been amazing and I know it’s only going to get better.

IMG_5963

IMG_5781

IMG_6036

GOPR5699

IMG_6264

IMG_6168

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain  

SAS: Singapore Highlights

Hawker Food: A hawker center is a massive, permanently tented open-air building that sells well priced, local foods. Maxwell Food Center was next to the Chinatown subway stop and featured three double-sided rows of food stalls.

What kinds of food do the stalls sell? Virtually every type of local food you can imagine (Singapore, Malaysian, and Chinese in particular). Meals such as chicken rice, nasi goreng, or sliced fish soup are complimented with freshly ground sugarcane juice, smoothies, and coconuts. As I gazed at the stalls, men passed me by holding bowls of rice stacked to their chins.

We chose to eat at Zhen Zhen Porridge, which apparently has won many awards for their congee. My friends and I braved the long winding line in order to get a bowl.
Every bite I took was better than the previous one. The rice porridge was hearty from being cooked all day, and accented with a sesame oil soy sauce. The bowl ($2) may not look too big in the photo, but it was massive and fed multiple people.
Marina Bay Sands: While I was not one of the SASers who stayed in this extremely exorbitant hotel (and they all loved it), I was a bit surprised when I saw it in person. For such a huge investment of $8 billion, I don’t really consider it an attractive building. That being said, it certainly looks ‘modern’ and I’m sure the infinity pool at the top is amazing to swim in.
Electronic Megamalls: I suppose I’m used to Best Buy; Naples has no dedicated camera stores. While in Singapore, I got the suggestion from a local to buy camera equipment at Funan Malll. I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to enter – a five story shopping center behemoth filled with electronics stores abound and at least twenty different camera stores on each floor. Each camera store had an ‘Amazon sized’ selection – hundreds of lenses, bags, general equipment, and knowledge to help. It was a camera wonderland.
Singapore Evertonians: Using my SingTel SIM card I purchased in the cruise terminal, I discovered there was an Everton soccer game the night we arrived. I looked up the local Singapore supporters’ group online, sent out some text messages, and before I knew it I was eating pizza with fellow Everton supporters. It was the first time I’ve watched a game with such a large group of fans and made for an awesome night (despite the undeserved loss against Chelsea).

My essays (21 pages) have been turned in and we’re sailing into Burma now! I feel very lucky to this country during its transition. The sky is misty and difficult to separate from the horizon, adding an sense of mystery. I can’t wait to explore.

Ojalá!

This new word I’ve learned has really resonated with me. It is used most often at the beginning of sentences as an interjection meaning “to be hopeful” or “God-willing”. It is also, actually, an Arabic word that the Spaniards adopted into their own language.

I’ve gravitated towards this words and grin a little each time I hear it because of it’s positivity and hopefulness.

I still think every day how fortunate I am to be here in Madrid. And the feeling of excitement and joy every time I wake up has not gone away.

Ojalá, it never does.