Reunion

My friends and I are planning a reunion!

More details: Some of the super cool awesome friends I made at the University of Hertfordshire are trying to plan a get together this summer! I don’t know if it will happen yet, but here’s hoping. Basically this all started when one of my friends got accepted into a study abroad program in Traverse City, Michigan. That got everyone else thinking, that’s not to far. So now all of us who live in the western hemisphere are looking at our budgets and summer plans, trying to figure out if this can actually happen.

Honestly, at this point, your guess is as good as mine. But I don’t really think it matters. We’ve managed to keep is decent touch for almost a year without seeing each other, and I think that speaks volumes about the friendships you can make while studying abroad. It was one of the best times in my life and I will be forever grateful for both the experience and the amazing people I met.

I can’t wait to see those guys again. Traverse City, here I (hopefully) come!!!

Arabic Calligraphy

For my first international event of the semester I was lucky enough to get a spot at an Arabic calligraphy class hosted by the university’s Arabic flagship group. I was one of a handful of people there who did not actually speak Arabic, but the class was interesting and informative nonetheless.

Did you know that there are 12 current types of Arabic calligraphy?
Did you know professional calligraphers can spend hours drawing just one character?
Did you know some calligraphers use real reeds as writing utensils?

well, now you do

My favorite aspect of the event was that we got to follow along with our own calligraphy pen and paper. I learned to write a few words in Arabic in a few different calligraphic styles. My favorite styles were the ones that have extra decoration and include all the short vowels. I really like the idea of making writing into a visual art form. I think it’s also a really interesting religious phenomenon that mosques are not allowed to include images of animals and such so they decorate with script instead. I’ve always tied that idea to the reform of the Catholic church and how simple Protestant churches are compared to cathedrals, but it was interesting to get some more insight into the history and techniques of the lettering and script used throughout the Arabic speaking world.

It was a really cool, unique opportunity that I am happy to have had.

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Back to “Normal”

So I’m back in the U.S. wading in biochemistry, medical school preparation, and general school work. I’ve been back for about 2 months now so it feels safe to say my transition back to school and to life in the U.S. is complete ? I guess ?

Spain was a learning experience and I loved a lot of my experiences there, but I never viewed it as my new home. I had a lot of conversations with people while I was abroad about this whole idea of people saying they’re never going to go back home because they love their new home so much. While that gets thrown around a lot, I think it misses a lot of really important things. I think it’s great when people really dive head first into their time abroad. I absolutely think that’s what you have to do. Commit to the language, the culture, and the people to the greatest extent you can with the understanding that you are always learning and will likely never truly master or fully understand a culture that is not yours. However, I think the beauty of study abroad is that it allows you to build a more nuanced understanding of the world by combining perspectives, cultures, and understandings. Throwing off your home culture, bashing it across the board isn’t necessarily productive.

Do I miss Spain or at least aspects of it? Absolutely (shoutout to Spanish tortillas). Are there also aspects of home I’m grateful to have back? For sure. Every country has foundational similarities we can appreciate by spending time abroad and also some differences to observe, learn about, and investigate. No one culture has all the answers, it would seem, but by learning about and experiencing as many cultures as possible, we can improve our understanding of the world, its people, and the best policies and action moving forward on both a macro and micro scale.

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Arabic Calligraphy lesson, aka Handwriting Inadequacy Hour

Just last week ago, the Arabic Flagship program hosted an Arabic calligraphy lesson with a master who teaches in California. Our whole Arabic class went together to take a look at the different styles of writing, and I can tell you, there were WAY more than expected. Calligraphy isn’t something practiced in the Western world with Latin script, so just in case you didn’t know, it’s an art form more about how the letters look than what they mean. It was initially practiced because it’s forbidden to paint or create any religious imagery of the Prophet or other figures whatsoever, so instead, script praising Allah was used as art to decorate buildings and writings. I’ve included a few examples of calligraphy below if you want a better idea of what I’m talking about. Classically, there were 65 distinct styles of calligraphy, but now there are just 12 styles in use, which is still way more than I expected. Of those, I could only read about 5, because the rest are so filled with decoration and twisting of the script that it was unrecognizable to someone who wasn’t too used to Arabic script. In the end, the lesson was far more intriguing than I could’ve guessed.

The professor had studied for years and years to learn how to write the scripts and it showed in his presentation. There were some technology issues and he had to use a chalkboard, and even without his proper tools, the scripts were still absolutely incredible. Each letter has a particular measurement using the dots you see in Arabic scripts, and each letter had to be a certain number of dots tall and wide to be considered actual script. Combine this with decorations and short vowels and you have a complex art. I didn’t realize that so much went into calligraphy, but after attempting to write some simple calligraphy with a pen, I quickly discovered that I would need SO many years to figure it out. Either way, it was an illuminating lesson, even if the illumination was mostly that my handwriting was WAY worse than I liked to think!

 

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La Degustación de Salsas en Puebla Tacos y Tequilería

A las 9:00 de la mañana, nos reunimos para nuestra clase en una Tequilería. No estábamos allí para probar unas tequilas; en actualidad, estábamos en el restaurante, Puebla Tacos y Tequilería, para una degustación de sus salsas tradicionales. El cuarto amarillo y brillo dentro de la restaurante fue un cambio bienvenido desde el frío intenso que hacía afuera.

La degustación de salsas.

Entre las salsas principales de Puebla, probábamos cinco tipos diferentes: avocar, habanero, tomatillo, dos chiles y chipotle. Nos servían las salsas con totopos hecho de maíz, que son cocinados en una plancha caliente y que se enfrían en 650 grados.

La salsa de avocar fue lo más picante en mi opinión. Esta salsa incluyó aceite de oliva, jalapeños, aguacate y sal. Para hacerla, se mezclaban mucho así que es muy suave. La salsa avocar en particular tenía un color verde muy brillo y puro. La sensación de esta salsa fue como un petardo – que prendó fuego a mi lengua repentinamente y con mucha fuerza. Me gustó la combinación del aguacate tranquilo con el jalapeño agudo. Esto fue mi favorita.

También había una salsa de habanero. Se hacían en una olla llena de agua hirviendo con cebolla rojo, habanero, chile seco, tomate, ajo y sal. Esta salsa tenía un color como una mezcla de naranja y rojo. La salsa habanero también fue chocante a la lengua con las especies picantes. También tenía una textura más líquido de las otras.

En la salsa tomatillo, incluyó tomatillo, cebolla, cilantro, agua y chile jalapeño. Esta salsa fue muy picante, con un sabor potente y fresca. También tenía una textura muy líquida. En comparación, la salsa “los pepes” (dos chiles) tenía el opuesto del sabor del tomatillo. Esa salsa se hacían con tomate, chile guajillo (que no es picante), ajo, sal y cilantro. Entonces, se ponían en una licuadora. Esto fue mi menos favorita.

La última salsa, salsa “chips” (salsa chipotle), parecía tener el color de una rosa – pero definitivamente faltaba el olor de una rosa. Para hacer salsa “chips”, se necesitaría chile chipotle, tomate rojo, ajo, cebolla y sal. Se hacían en una olla en agua hirviendo y entonces se ponían en una mezcladora. Tenía una consistencia muy espesa. Esta salsa era lo menos ofensiva en relación al nivel del picante, por lo tanto los clientes de Puebla les gustan salsa “chips” el mejor. Me gustaba todas las salsas de Puebla que probé. Volveré a ese restaurante para disfrutar la comida rica y la buena compañía.

Puebla Tacos y Tequilería.
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Adventures in Israel

This past December I had the incredible opportunity of traveling around Israel for 10 days. The trip was through an organization called Birthright, which takes young Jewish adults to explore the land of their heritage. Our journey began in the North, Tiberius, where we took a jeep ride through the Golan Heights and explored ancient ruins at the Tel Dan Nature Reserve. We got to ride up to the top of Mount Bental, witnessing the intersection of Israel, Jordan, and Syria, and then visited an Arab village in a set of neighboring mountains. A restaurant there served the best falafel sandwich I have ever had! The food in Israel was definitely a major highlight; hummus, tahini, and a plethora of different salads composed most of my diet while there.
Standing before the Western Wall was a monumental moment for me on the trip. It is a place that I have long learned about but never imagined I would see in person. As per tradition, I left a note in a crack in the wall. Walking around the rest of Jerusalem, and witnessing places of historical significance for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, was incredibly eye-opening as to the importance of a single city to so many religious groups.

I was lucky enough to also have adventures floating in the Dead Sea, spending a night under the stars in a Bedouin Camp, and exploring Tel-Aviv night life. In 10 days I fell in love with Israel and its natural beauty, rich culture, and unique history. I sincerely hope I am able to go back to Israel for study abroad; I cannot wait to further explore and get to know the country and its people.

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The 12-Hour Vacation

I left the US early last Sunday morning, but not for China. My best friend Avery goes to college in Singapore, and being in the same hemisphere as her was too good an opportunity to pass up. So now, I’ve been in Singapore for nearly a week!

But Singapore didn’t end up being my first international destination on this trip, either. My flight out of Philadelphia was booked through Qatar Airways, with a 3-hour layover in Doha, Qatar. When my flight was delayed, however, reshuffling my connection landed me in Doha for 12 hours. So I decided to make my adventure a little more adventurous.

For breakfast: some old favorites, like potato wedges and oatmeal, and some new ones, like some kind of cheese and a Middle Eastern pastry.

Since my layover was so long, the Doha airport kindly provided me with a hotel room, and along with it, a free tourist visa. After checking into my room, I got some food at the buffet, and then went to the concierge to sign up for a tour of the city.

Mere steps away from billions of dollars of merchandise.

The tour, just 3 hours in total, was mostly a flyover of the most notable destinations in the city. We first stopped at the Pearl-Qatar, an uber-high class shopping and residential complex. With name-brands like Ferrari and Armani, it wasn’t quite a shopping stop for me.

The souq was made up of narrow alleyways such as this one.

After driving around the island a little more, we ended up at Souq Waqif, a large hawkers’ market. My favorite part of the souq was a street completely filled with birds in cages. I was wearing conservative clothing, but was still one of the few women in the souq without her head covered, and I felt somewhat exposed as a result.

Bird Street

Another observation: I felt rather ignorant at this realization, but I hadn’t known before landing in Doha that it is common for Qatari men to wear traditional Arab attire as their everyday clothing. My Western appearance definitely made me stick out as I meandered through the souq.

Tuscany and I found our next photo op on the way to the Museum of Islamic Art. We took a glass elevator up to the museum entrance, and stepped out onto a veranda lined with palm trees overlooking Doha Bay.

Doha Bay
What a model.
Elegant daggers with Arabic calligraphy incorporated into the design on the hilts

The museum was very cool – I didn’t have much time there, but I got to look at the calligraphic art exhibit, which I’ve always been interested in. There, I found these beautiful daggers, which even got the Avery Simmons stamp of approval.

After the museum, it was time to head back to the hotel and collect my things, then return to the airport for the flight to Singapore. Thus concluded my shortest vacation ever – for the $70 taxi tour, I got my own mini getaway in the lovely nation of Qatar.

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Lyrics to Let Me Be Your Sun/Let Me Be Your Moon

I was out picking flowers

I had no concern for the hours

I had no concern for the time I was given

I had yet to realize I wasn’t quite living

 

So much life all around me

The bees and the trees were abounding

Nothing was painful but nothing was daring

But then I saw you and was quickly comparing the night to every day

The night to every day

 

And I sang:

 

Ooh, O Dark you

Ooh, such a deeper view

Ooh

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

 

Ooh, I’ve been waiting for you

Ooh, I will see this through

Ooh

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

 

 

You stayed there in the shadows

They all said you’d came from the gallows

but all I could notice was how you would smile

When I would sing just to make you stay there for a while

Please stay for a while

 

One day you walked towards me

I wasn’t scared or abhorring

Cause those who know death well know life all the more

And those who know neither I find to be quite the bore compared to you

All bore compared to you

 

And she sang:

 

Ooh, O Dark you

Ooh, such a deeper view

Ooh

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

 

Ooh, I’ve been waiting for you

Ooh, I will see this through

Ooh

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

Let me be your sun

 

 

Ooh He walked towards her, he walked towards her, he walked towards

Ooh he did adore her, he did adore her, he did adore her

 

I heard your song from below

And somehow knew where to go

Above to the land where no one wants to see me

I’d all but lost hope but in you I found meaning

 

How could someone like her love me?

The thought alone was astounding

So I took what I was given, was enough just to listen

I didn’t need much, just to have what was missing one day

I only needed one day

 

But then your eyes looked towards me

They weren’t scared or abhorring

So I came back here as long as I could

Just to listen and finally believe in good

Who knew I could, you’re` good, who knew I could

 

And he said:

 

Ooh, then I took your hand

Ooh, I know my past is black

Ooh

Let me be your moon

Let me be your moon

Let me be your moon

 

Ooh, though I come from darker lands

Ooh, I swear I’m a better man

Ooh

Let me be your moon

Let me be your moon

Let me be your moon

 

Guten Tag Graz!

Greetings from my new home for the next 6 months! That’s right… I finally made it to Graz, Austria for my semester abroad.

I arrived in Vienna, Austria on January 31st, and along with my travel companions (who also attend OU), stayed in a hostel called “Wombats” for two nights. My traveling buddies are two wonderful ladies named Lauren and Abigail (but she goes by Abbey). Lauren is also my roommate for the semester.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Vienna due to traveling fatigue and, we must admit, a bit of shock (and awe). Therefore, I have made it a goal to make it back sometime this semester, because Vienna is a beautiful city.

So far, I am completely enamored by Graz. I love the Innenstadt (inner city), with it’s beautiful old architecture and colorful streets. I love the hustle and bustle of public transport centers, specifically one of my favorite places, Jakominiplatz. At night, Jakominiplatz is lit up so much that the first time I witnessed it, I thought I was indoors… It’s a difficult phenomenon to explain, but it stunned me.

My flat is a bit of a trek from the Innenstadt, but that’s perfectly fine with me, because I enjoy the backdrop of hills and mountains away from the city. My building even has a beautiful rooftop terrace, and I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time up there over the course of the semester. And even though I live away from the city center, Graz has a wonderful series of trams and buses to get you close to wherever you need to go. I love public transportation!

That being said, I’ve still done quite a bit of walking. On one of my first days here, a friend of my roommate took myself and my companions on a grand walking tour through the city. Our tour guide, Tina, is a fantastic human being who lives in Graz as an American missionary. She is talkative and friendly, and was the perfect person to introduce us to our new home. I will be forever grateful for her hospitality. Tina is also pregnant, and her baby is due in June. I hope we get to meet them before we head back home.

In the middle of the city of Graz lies a small mountain known as the Schloβberg. To get to the top, you climb the stairs that crisscross up the small mountain side. You can also pay about €2 to ride the elevator—Graz is very accessible to people with disabilities, which is something I would like to address at some point, although maybe in a different post. Anyhow, at the top of the Schloβberg is a giant structure with a clock on the side, called the Uhrturm. It looks over the entire city, and it is the symbol of Graz.

The view of the entire city of Graz from the top of the Schloßberg is astonishing and beautiful. The valley that Graz is situated in, as well as the river Mur that cuts through the middle of the city, make for a perfectly charming sight. You can also see the strangely shaped Kunsthaus (art museum), which is a dark navy blue blob that contrasts wonderfully with the surrounding red Austrian rooftops. Another iconic view in Graz is the Hauptplatz (main square), which frames the beautiful architecture of the Rathaus (town hall). I enjoy this city so much.

We started our pre-semester Intensive German courses this week. For the next three and a half weeks, I’ll have class from 9:00 to 12:30 every day. Unfortunately, I only tested into the A2/2 class, which is one level lower than I hoped I would be in. Thankfully, the class only lasts one month and then I move on to the next level (B1/1) when the actual semester starts, so it will still be good review.

The real semester begins on March 6th, and we have yet to enroll for classes, but I don’t mind. I like that we get to acquaint ourselves with our new home before full-time student-ing starts.

The weather has been much different from the weather at home, and so far I have been enjoying the cold air. We usually wear heavy jackets, as do all of the locals, and the weather hovers between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s somewhat dark and gray at the moment, but spring time is just around the corner!

Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

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third time’s a charm

On February 9th, I was able to hear Sister Rosemary speak in the Oklahoma Memorial Union’s Meacham Auditorium for the third time since being a student at OU. Once again, I am overwhelmed at the amount of compassion this woman has for people. She is utterly selfless, spending all her time advocating for women and women’s education. Sixteen years ago, she co-founded Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring School in Gulu, Uganda. At this school, disadvantaged women are taught various trades, how to sew, knit, cook, clean and many other skills so that they can become self-sufficient women who are able to provide for their children.

Education professor Sally Beach asked Sister Rosemary, “So what can the College of Education do for you?”. Sister replied, “You can help me start a school”. The College of Education is going to collaborate with Sister Rosemary in starting another school by creating lesson plans, teacher guides, and a curriculum that prepares students, many of whom speak little English, for the primary exit exam so they can continue their education.

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For the third time, I am overwhelmed and humbled by Sister Rosemary. She is a visionary. She is purpose-driven. She is not focused on the materialist, secular things of this world. Her eyes are set on an elevated path. She is kingdom minded and eternity driven. Rather than invest in herself, she pours out all she has to offer into others. The Lord has many crowns for this honorable woman. I know she, being her humble self, will give those crowns right back to our Savior.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6: 19-20

Sister Rosemary is storing up treasures in heaven by investing in all of God’s children. I hope to be half the woman she is and am so thankful to have been able to hear such inspiring words from her yet again.
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Watabarikiwa Sister Rosemary! Watabarikiwa!

 

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