Tour of Israel

On my first week abroad in Israel, I participated on a tour that acquainted us with the basic geography and history of the country. Over five days we visited Sepphoris, Nazareth, Beit Shearim, Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Banias, Nimrod’s Fortress, Capernum, Hippos, and Caesarea Marittima.


Sepphoris was a relatively large and well-off Roman city that contained lots of amazingly-preserved mosaics— it’s most famous one is even called the Mona Lisa of the Levant. We also visited the city’s water system, which was really cool to see. From where we toured, the water would be carried down the mountain and into the city through a series of tunnels and aquaducts.



For lunch on our first day we went to Nazareth. There I had my first taste of authentic-street shawarma and it was amazing! The dish quickly became our tour group’s staple food choice. Later we were also able to see the Church of the Annunciation. My favorite part was all the depictions of Mary the church owned. Countries from all over sent the church images of Mary and they hung all around the outside and inside of the famed church.



Beit Shearim:

Our last stop on the first day was Beit Shearim, an ancient Israeli burial site. Honestly this was probably one of my favorite places to visit, because exploring the catacomb-like tombs were unforgettable! Unfortunately, since it was so dark down there, I could not get any good pictures, but I did get a few of the coffins!


Tel Hazor:

The second day we toured Tel Hazor, the largest tel in Israel. This site was active in the Middle Bronze Age and the Iron Ages, and at various points was the northern most extent of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In my opinion, the most interesting part of Tel Hazor was its cultic elements, which we still do not know much about. We also got to tour its water system, which is pictured below.



On our third day we visited Banias/Panias/Caesarea Phillipi, and yes, it really does have that many names. It was originally called Panias, and functioned mainly as a cultic site for Pan. It then became Caesarea Phillipi, for Augustus and Herod’s son, under the Romans. Banias is its Arabic name and came from Panias, but since Arabic doesn’t have a “P” sound it was simply changed to a “B.” Anyways, the place was beautiful, and so green! I knew Israel’s ecosystems were diverse, but I never pictured it having forests and rivers that looked straight out of a tropical rainforest!

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Nimrod’s Fortress:

After Banias we went to Nimrod’s Fortress, which was probably my second favorite place that we toured. The hike to the fortress’s keep was quite the journey, but the views from it were to die for! The views in general, from anywhere on the fortress, were amazing. All you had to do was peer over a wall and you got to see beautiful rolling hills that went on for miles.




We began day four at Capernaum, right off the Galilee. The church there was beautiful of course, but my personal favorite part was just sitting on the rocks, looking out at the Galilee. The water was so blue and the air was so peaceful, it was just an impossible to describe experience.



After Capernaum we drove up to Hippos/Susita, and boy was this one a workout. Hippos sits atop a huge mountain, with a water source nowhere to be found. Sure, it has a great strategic location, but I personally didn’t think all the effort that went in to getting water there and building up the city justified it. I was amazed at how they were even able to bring all the materials they needed up there! They must have moved tons of stone up the mountain, and I can say from experience that climbing and navigating your way up is not fun.


Caesarea Marittima:

Our last stop, and my favorite, was Caesarea Marittima. It was one of the Levant’s most important ports and is located on the Mediterranean. When Rome ruled the region, Caesarea was one of its local seats of power and included all the bells and whistles that came with being an important Roman city: a hippodrome, amphitheater, lavish public baths. King Herod even built one of his palaces there! And I can completely see why. The weather there was perfect and the Mediterranean was gorgeous—if I had to pick a place to live in the ancient world I definitely would have chosen Caesarea.



Gli Ultimi Pensieri (Final Thoughts)

Man, did a lot of stuff happen this last semester. I really can’t even believe it. I’ve been back from Bologna for just over a month now, and it’s taken this long to sit down and process the fact that I was across an ocean for four and a half months. Before the little stuff starts to fade from my mind and I lose a little bit of the post-journey luster, I’d just like to record a few of my last thoughts and observations in the hope that they might convince someone to take a chance and go for an exchange semester, or even just a trip, for themselves. Whether or not my semester was ALWAYS the happiest time of my life is up for debate, I can tell you that, without a doubt, these last few months have been the absolute greatest time of my life in so many ways it almost scares me.

Looking back on this blog from my first post to now actually gave me quite the laugh. From naive, bright-eyed optimist, to homesick, confused idiot, then finally onward to now was a massive journey filled with ups and downs. Not going to lie, there were times when I arrived when the only thing I wanted was to be back at OU taking normal classes in a normal life. I spent plenty of nights feeling utterly lonely and longing for my own bed. There were also plenty of turning points where I wanted to give up and just lay in bed until I could go home, but luckily my good friends coffee and beer were there to distract me ’til I felt better. On those nights, I’d ignore what few friends I had at the time and get Burger King from across the street while watching Netflix and having a beer, and I can tell you there’s nothing more soothing to an Italy-weary soul. Eventually, I made more friends and starting gripping the language better, and before I knew it I couldn’t even imagine leaving. Now that I’ve finally reached my own bed and my normal life, while it is good to be home, I would sell my left kidney for one more week on the terrace in my apartment, drinking a fine (and cheap) red wine with a few of my old friends. I really do miss Bologna terribly; I just wish I had soaked up my time better, spent more money, slept less, and took WAY more photos. Most everything I did and saw will be forever burned into my mind, for better or for worse, but I’d love to have more pictures that showed just how purely happy I was in those last weeks. With my fears of living abroad (mostly) conquered and having taken a taste outside of life in the states, I get the feeling my newly bolstered wanderlust isn’t ever going to leave.

Speaking of conquering fears, I feel that living away from my home country for a while really boosted my maturity. Like I said before, I started off as a naive 19-year-old just hoping to meet some pretty girls and feeling like life would just be easy there, but MAN did he get put through the wringer. Everything was so much harder, from grocery shopping to meeting new people.  Being in such new territory forced me to think both outside the box and my comfort zone, and I really had no one else to help me adult over there. In the end, I feel much older than I was before I reached Italy, and the jump was far more than just the time I spent there. I probably just had plenty of catching up to do maturity-wise, but it was a welcome shock to my system.

As I sit here writing this deep into the night, I’m actually laughing at myself (again) because of how much things have changed for me. The comforts of home that I found myself wishing for so badly at times last semester just don’t seem quite as stellar now. Not to sound overly pretentious, but something about last semester seemed… more. The air was sweeter over there, the people more lively, there was something new to see around every corner, and even the challenges of life were more thrilling. I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with differences between there and here; it was simply so entirely different that everything seemed to be in sharper focus.  Something’s really different about me, too, though it doesn’t seem like a bad thing. I’ve lost some roots here in the States and built some across the ocean, and now I just wish I could go back, or anywhere that I haven’t been before. These past few months have truly been the most meaningful months of my life, and nothing’s ever going to be the same after them. If anyone is actually reading this and considering whether or not to actually spend some time away from the States, whether for study abroad or any other reason, DO IT. I couldn’t be more emphatic.

I think if I talk any more about it I’ll be in danger of becoming far too redundant, if I haven’t already, so I’ll just leave it at that. This is obviously my last post about Italy before moving onto junior year and into the next stage of my life, which is why I think that I waited so long to write it. I’d rather not recognize that it’s over, though it has to be done at some point. Even a month on I still don’t know everything about how I changed over there, and I’m glad for it, but I am melancholy that it’s really finished. For now, it’s time to go yet again and close this part of my life for a while. Thanks to anyone who actually read this and slogged through my meandering thoughts. I’m sure I’ll have more garbage to say in a few months or so. Till then, goodbye True Believers, because I’m closing the book on this part of the year for good.


My Trip to Uganda part 1

During this trip, I expect to be overwhelmed by the cultural difference, saddened by some of the issues Ugandans face on a daily basis, and to broaden my knowledge of the technical aspects of water and also broaden my knowledge of how water affects daily routines. I think that I really need to forget about US standards in order to fully experience Northern Uganda’s culture. I know the difference between US culture and Northern Uganda culture will be overwhelming, but in my opinion there is no value to visiting/working in a country that has an extremely similar culture to your home country’s. I have little knowledge of the role water plays in Northern Uganda, but I know that paying attention during our interviews will better help me understand just how important water is.

Planning and design professionals play an important role in community based projects. When planning and design professionals from outside of the community come into a new place to work on a project, it is necessary for the professionals to understand the needs of the community. It is vital that the professionals listen to all of the input of the community members and not to bring in, in our case, views that only pertain to the US. Professionals must let go of our own experiences with water, because they are so different than the experiences of Northern Ugandans, and focus on the information gathered from the community members.

Planning and design professionals listen to a community by asking open ended questions, taking in the community’s response without altering their words, allowing the community members to add input that we did not ask about, allowing community members to discuss together the issues at hand, and taking all of this information and compiling it without passing judgments on what is important and what is not important.

It is definitely possible to build knowledge and solutions together with a community. I believe the community should bring the experiences and struggles with water while the professionals bring their technical knowledge of how water technologies work.


My Trip to Uganda part 2

I had a very significant encounter with one of the hair dressing students that our group interviewed on Sunday, June 12th. Our group had a girl that shared the hardships she has faced with her family. The girl explained to us that she was in school and was given a set amount of money for transportation home, except that she got sick and had to use the money for her medicine. Her dad would not five her more money because he had other children to worry about. She explained how even though a few of her siblings, and I believe mother had dies (Dad had a second wife), they still had a family of eight. She ended up running into a guy she sort of knew who offered to drive her home once morning arrived. She agreed and spent the night at his home, but the next day he was now where to be found. This happened for a few more days. Eventually when she was allowed to leave, and she arrived at home, the community and her family shunned her because they thought she had a relationship with this guy. She told her that because her family wouldn’t talk to her and wouldn’t let her go to school, she fell in love with a boy. She ended up getting pregnant. The boy ran away. She was left alone. Eventually she was sent to St. Monica and is in her third term here.

One of the main cultural differences that I notice is that in Uganda, going to school is a privilege. In the United States education is required, at least up to a certain age, but in Uganda taking a kid out of school is used as a punishment. Unfortunately in the United States, many children take school for granted and would be happy to skip classes for a while. One similarity that is shown is that both Uganda and the United States have a problem of teenage pregnancy. This is a difficult issue to resolve, but the United States does promote abstinence, while northern Uganda promotes condom use to prevent from sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS.

Also on Sunday, we heard several gunshots. Coming from Dallas, more specifically Oak Cliff, which is known as a pretty rough neighborhood, I am fairly confident I know what gunshots sound like. I was in my room talking to my mom on Sunday night when I heard what was later confirmed as gunshots. It seems like there were at least 20 shots in a row. I frantically walked outside to see where the rest of the group was, but to my surprise they were standing outside looking at the sky. They announced the sounds were “fireworks.” We knew there was a concert that night that we were originally planning to go to, so I think people thought the sounds were part of the concert. The night ended being absolutely crazy. I remember hiding under my bed, scared to death, thinking I may never see my family again. And then…eventually I fell asleep. Fortunately, the next day we learned how we were misinformed about what was going on. We shouldn’t have been as frantic and scared as we were. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in and raise a family in war torn areas where shooting is a regular occurrence. I would be scared for my life and the lives of my family everyday. I would be scared to leave my house, and would probably decide not to have children in such a dangerous area/time.

The people we are interviewing definitely have less freedom with their personal choices than we have in the United States. There is definitely an expectation of dressing. Women are expected to wear knee length skirts or longer while in the United States we are able to wear pants, skirts, and shorts. Their eating habits depend on what the environment can produce, while our eating habits are dependent on which restaurant we choose to go to on a particular night. The people we are interviewing seem to have to use their time gathering the necessities. They spend a lot of their time gathering and boiling water, dealing with the garden, and cleaning their homes while in the United States we use our time to make money.





Korea Sumer 2016! Pt.1

Hi everyone! I’m sorry that I forgot to post when I first got here, but it’s never too late right? When I first arrived at the airport, my friends and I were so exhausted. We decided to take a nonstop flight to Seoul. In theory it sounded like the best option, but being trapped thousands of feet in the air for 14 hours gets a little claustrophobic after a while. One thing that surprised me was that the food served on the plane was better than when I went to China in the summer of 2015. They gave you the option of traditional korean food, or the prepackages basic airline food. To my surprise, they give you three meals instead of just two, but enough about food for now. When we arrived in Seoul around 4pm Korea time, we had to wait for the KTX train that was at 8pm. The last available train was around 5pm, but there were only two seats available instead of 4 :( KTX is the fastest train from Seoul to Daegu, and it takes around $3. The ticket was about $55, but to my surprise, no one came to check. Now it may sound weird to not have someone go around and check tickets, but my friend told me that they randomly decide to check tickets, and they already know which seat is supposed to be occupied and at what station too. If you were to get on without buying a ticket, then you would get fined three time the amount of the ticket. So I highly suggest that you don’t wing it and hope everything will be okay without buying a ticket. All in all, our buddy, a student from KNU came to pick us up at the train station at around 11pm.When we finally got to the dorms on campus, we had literally traveled for 24 hours (sigh) All in all, the good thing is that we made it!

The next day was orientation, so we got to go to the shops that were by the North gate of campus. My friends and I usually go there for lunch, small shopping, or just to kill time. My university has a partnership with KNU, so I got a free meal plan that includes one free lunch everyday. Surprisingly, cafeteria food has almost the same approach in every country. Only provide the necessary vegetable and protein to last for four hours, and then go somewhere else to actually get you want to eat. Normally, I would think that the typical Asian diet consisted of a lot of vegetables, but here produce us quite expensive. The largest portion of vegetables that I get are from breakfast at the cafeteria. Half of them being in either kimchi, and the other half are pickled. They’re still good to say the least. I actually went to the market on day, and wanted to buy some apples, but the were roughly around $4 an apple! Aside from my withdrawal from vegetables and fruits, I still think the food here is some of the best that I’ve had (I’ll be sure to post more on the foods here along with some pictures in another post). But for now, the street food here is very good. Fish cakes, spicy rice cakes, and a lot of chicken.

Be sure to check back to see more of my adventures here in Daegu, Korea. I have so much to talk about, but so little time. I’m off to go to a local market with my friends, I can’t wait to see what I’ll find. Bye :)


Black Lives Matter

I keep seeing statistics that say African Americans commit 52% of murders but I want to point out that that statistic comes from a study between 1980-2008. In 2012, African Americans committed 49% of murders and in 2013 it was 38%. Though it's ridiculous that 13% of the population manages to commit 38% of murders, the numbers are going down and that's something you're not hearing people talk about. I honestly think the stats are going down because we are becoming a more progressive people who reject the belief that people are born murders because of their DNA. Even less extreme, we reject the idea that children will grow up fatherless and struggling in school because they are black. If we expect the best from our children, they will grow up to be the best and leave the stereotypes of the past behind them. Coincidentally, if we continue to change this mind set around the country, police will be less likely to think that black people are committing a crime without further investigation, and will be less likely to shoot now and ask questions later. Expect more of every race. All races progress. Racism decreases. Crime rates decrease. Unjust killings of minorities stop. That's just it folks.

Black Lives Matter

I keep seeing statistics that say African Americans commit 52% of murders but I want to point out that that statistic comes from a study between 1980-2008. In 2012, African Americans committed 49% of murders and in 2013 it was 38%. Though it's ridiculous that 13% of the population manages to commit 38% of murders, the numbers are going down and that's something you're not hearing people talk about. I honestly think the stats are going down because we are becoming a more progressive people who reject the belief that people are born murders because of their DNA. Even less extreme, we reject the idea that children will grow up fatherless and struggling in school because they are black. If we expect the best from our children, they will grow up to be the best and leave the stereotypes of the past behind them. Coincidentally, if we continue to change this mind set around the country, police will be less likely to think that black people are committing a crime without further investigation, and will be less likely to shoot now and ask questions later. Expect more of every race. All races progress. Racism decreases. Crime rates decrease. Unjust killings of minorities stop. That's just it folks.


Flexibility: Being flexible. Something that I personally have never been very good at. I like everything to be planned, meaning I like to do lists, planners, and watches. Being in Italy, with 40 other people taught me how to be flexible. Our first problem happened before we even got to Arezzo. Our original site for the service project was the train station, but a week before we left, the location changed to the hospital. Upon our arrival to the hospital I nearly had a panic att like. Everything the creativity committee had planned was nearly out the window, yes the concepts were the same, but where were we going to put everything? Were we going to get it done? It turns out, we would do a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. But that was just the beginning, I quickly learned that people were not joking when they said that Italians run in their own schedule. From having to ask for your check at a restaurant, and even then sometimes not getting it, to being late to important to events, Italians really do run on there own sense of time. This experience also taught me to be more flexible with my fellow students. We all come from so many different backgrounds, and we all have different skills, but if we work together and recognize those skills we can get a lot done. I believe that being a flexible leader is important. Having the knowledge that not everything is going to go as planned, and being able to react positively, is a huge deal. Things happen, and the sooner you realize it, and fix what you can the better. I learned on this trip what it truly means to go with the flow.


This is what dreams are made of!!


June 29th: WE ARE IN ROMA!!! WOW. Today we walked all over Rome. We are staying near the Vatican (casual), and we walked all the way to the Coliseum, for a grand total of 9 miles. Let’s just say we took a cab back!! Rome is literally full of history, from the fountain of the four rivers, to the Trevi fountain, to the Forum, this city is overflowing with history. Walking through the city and hearing Professor Duclaux explain how life in ancient Rome makes you feel as if you are a citizen of ancient Rome, in your own toga. Walking is a great way to see an entire city that you would not see if you just took a bus everywhere. We saw where Caesar was supposedly killed, where ancient Romans shaped the future, and where innocent animals were killed for sport all in one day. I am so overwhelmed by the history of this place. To hear of what happened in these places, and to learn of the culture then and now is something that I would never get sick of.

Probably my favorite part of this city is the Trevi fountain. I love that so many people come here to find love, or to know that they will be back in Rome again. The fountain represents hope, and happiness, and I love that. To be here and to be experiencing this joy with my friends makes the day that much more happy to me. The memories that I have made in this city will be with me the rest of my life, and that makes up for my level of tired. I do not know if I have ever been this tired, but when will I be in Rome again? I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings!! Tomorrow is my last full day in Italy, and in Europe! WHAT?! This has been such a crazy journey and I do not want it to end!!


Just Another Church

IMG_4569June 23rd: Today we all hopped on a bus and went on an adventure! SInce we are done with our community service project we now get to go out and learn more about the artwork and community of Italy! Today we went to Assisi and we got to see where St. Francis once walked. Casual. I was honestly kind of discouraged to find out that we were going to see multiple churches, becau  se I have been going into churches since late May and they are starting to run together. But wow this city and its churches blew my mind! To have the oopurtunity to not only walk through these beautiful churches but to also hear about why they exist from Professor Duclaux is so amazing. To learn about the frescos, the cathedral and the life of St. Francis blew my mind. Prof. Duclaux describes the history in a way that you can picture St. Francis walking the streets of Assisi building a wonderful chapel with his bare hands, that we saw by the way. This isn’t just another church, no church is just another church. Imagine all that has gone on in these structures, the lives that have been changed, the history that has been made. Wow, just wow.

After a few more lectures we went on a lunch break and split off to various locations to eat! My friends and I made a quick stop to get some wonderful cannoli’s and wow were they good. This free time just led to more relationships being made closer, and for that I could not be more grateful. I know I have said it plenty of times, but these people around me are changing my life, along with many others. They rock. Everyday I wonder how I will continue through fatigue, but then I walk down stairs to the lobby and see there faces and my energy level is instantly 100%. After surviving the Assisi heat and drinking some pretty good sink water I could not have been more excited to make it back to Arezzo!

A quick nap, and change of clothes later we were off to the monastery for a fantastic OUA cookout! This one was with all of the students and staff at OUA, it was great to just mingle and eat some home food, especially watermelon. After a quick flash mob to One Dance we made the treck back down the hill to our hotel, where a lot of blogging needed to happen! As the blogging and conversation continued, I once again realized how blessed that I am to be on this trip, in this wonderful city, with all of these beautiful people. IMG_4592