Padova/Venice

One of the lovely Venetian canals

Recently , the bulk of OUA students went on an exiting trip to Padova and then Venice! We got up early in the morning in order to make it down to the train station by 7:20 and thankfully, we all made it. The train ride took a few hours. We passed the time primarily by sleeping and gazing outside at the beautiful Italian landscape. When we arrived in Padova, we went to the beautiful Scrovegni chapel which was painted by Giotto, the early Renaissance artist. Kirk was quite passionate as he described how much of an impact Giotto had had on the art movement of the time as he broke away from the traditional gothic style of heavy symbolism and limited sentimental appeal. Throughout his paintings, the people are often engaged in actions and expressing emotion that really helps connect them to the viewer and help them understand what is happening in the scenes.

At this point in time we broke for lunch. I went to a lovely pizza place with a group and then some fine Italian shopping. I just picked up a burgundy hoodie but there were definitely a lot of sales to be had with some items being a full 70% off! We then rejoined the group and we all went to the local university where Galileo taught and many advances in medicine were made. Our tour guide spoke good English and like Kirk, spoke with passion about the importance of her surroundings. The anatomical theater was easily my favorite as it had been persevered very well since the late 1800s when it ceased to be used. At around 7:00 or so we had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. A funny incident occurred as some students at my table attempted to send a bottle of red wine as a gift to Kirk’s table and he sent it back to our table. We then had the bottle ourselves. Quite funny indeed!

Look at those crowds!

Next was Venice! We all broke up into smaller groups and took the one-hour train trip to Venice. I was awestruck when I had first left the station as it was so full and bustling with Carnevale life. My group walked towards the Piazza San Marco and on the way, we picked up some delightful masks. I was the only one to go with the full mask (which was a bit pricier) but in my defense, it looked freakin’ cool. We had lunch at a lovely outdoor café where we had meat lasagna and pizza whilst overlooking one of the many canals. Piazza San Marco was crowded but it was still enjoyable to see how many thousands of people could fit in one small place. At this point our group split into two smaller groups and mine managed to visit the basilica and do some more exploring away from the crowds. We then took the 6:25 back to Arezzo and after posting to Instagram about my adventures, I went to sleep (albeit at midnight).

Thomas and I in our new carnevale masks (I’m on the right)
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Diversity Issues in Study Abroad (GEF Entry)

From 1991-2001 a survey regarding the experiences of study abroad students was published by Brown University outlining specific encounters of students studying in the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, and Australia. The results showed the vast array of experiences that American students underwent while traveling abroad; the experiences outlined the difficulties and privileges of being an American in a foreign space. It was interesting to see how the treatments of the students varied from country to country, with some countries being more accepting of Americans, and others not so much. For this Global Engagement Blog entry, I will be taking a deeper look into the the study and what it shows us.

The study begins with the stories of six female students studying abroad in various countries within Africa, such as Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The common thread that seems to exist between each of their stories is how they were perceived in the financial sense. All six of the students say that they were presumed to be wealthy just because they were American. As to why this is, there is no way to know for sure but that is one thing I found interesting. As far as the other continents, the majority of the students did not seem to encounter this on such a large scale. Also, throughout the study the students reflected on what it meant to be an American in a foreign country. Some students found it to be a humbling experience, while others felt targeted and lost. As someone who plans on studying abroad, I found these experiences, although a bit outdated, insightful. They offered a perspective that I will remember before, during, and after my journey. Most importantly, I believe it is my responsibility as an American traveling abroad to represent my country in the best and most respectful way possible, taking into account the experiences and perspectives of those around me. As a student and Global Engagement Fellow at OU, I have the awesome responsibility to study abroad on behalf of my university and country, and it is crucial to keep that in mind when overseas.

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“Mindhunter” and the Shadow-Self: An Argument

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s “Mindhunter” yet, do yourself a favor: watch it. Between classes, doing laundry, on the treadmill, whatever. It’s heavily dialogue-driven and, while that may be a turn off for some, David Fincher (Se7ven, Zodiac, Fight Club, The Social Network, etc.) serves as an executive producer and director for the show. If …

The Institution

Dr. Blake has found journal entries from Elizabeth Pennington’s journal, one of the most elite patients to stay at the Donald Haynes Institute of Mental Health.

April 17, 1939- Best day ever! My mother and father are taking me to Charleston for the weekend! Hopefully to buy some new things to keep up my social status. They said we are going to take a quick stop at an old house in the suburbs of Charleston just to see “the beauty”. Things have been pretty bad since Louis left me, I thought I was going crazy and thought my parents were going to send me away- but nope! Hopefully this will keep my mind off of it all. Ope! We’re here. What a beautiful house, can’t wait to explore!

April 18, 1939- I was wrong. My parents lied. Those sons of bitches. They tricked me and dropped me off at this disgusting Mental Health place. From the outside it looks nice, old, but whatever

May 13, 1939 – I have been living here for almost a month. In this hell hole. I am surrounded by the elites of the elites, but I still know I am the best. I am a damn Pennington for Christ’s sake. In this past month alone, five people have gone missing, including my best friend Polly Jennings. And somehow it’s all the same, they get sent into Solitary Confinement for misbehavior, and never return. I think I’m going crazy… I hear the strangest of things at night. I swear, every night there is something waiting right outside my door to get me.

November 1, 1939- I was raped. I don’t know by what, but I am certain. I awoke to this figure standing in front of me. This place has made me lose my mind. I hear things, I see things. I’m killing myself tomorrow- somehow. There’s no way to escape. This is the only option.

Papallacta Mountain Range: Una Nueva Elevación

Despite what my Facebook photos may imply, I am not as outdoorsy a person as it may appear. However, I am all for new experiences and well I’m in Ecuador, one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet, so while I’m here I plan on taking advantage of this.

Papallacta
Peace. Love. Papallacta.

During my third weekend here, I took a day trip to the Papallacta (papa-yak-ta) Mountain range, followed by a trip to the nearby baños termales (thermal baths). This was not one of the trips my friends and I organized, it was organized by an unofficial University liaison. I thoroughly enjoyed not having to do any planning, even though I have found myself becoming a bit of an Ecuadorian travel agent. First, things first, let’s talk about the elevation, man oh man was it steep, at our highest point we were at about 14,000ft, which, I felt, with a nice throbbing headache. At this point my body was still acclimating to the higher elevation of Quito, about 9,350ft, if I were to do this climb now I think my body would be better prepared.

The path was simple and clear, but the wind was whipping through us, and it was a lot colder than most of us expected. Luckily, I dressed in layers, and packed some additional as well. Just for reference, I wore a tank top, an athletic turtleneck long sleeve, an athletic high-neck half zip, and my rain jacket. One the bottom, I had on thick athletic leggings, my rain boots, and was equipped with some lightly lined gloves, and a beanie (as shown on my featured photo). The higher we got the more the intense the wind was, and it took about an hour and a half for us to ascend. The day was rather clear and the views were incredible, that is until we got to the very top, then it was cloudy, hence the name cloud forest, where we only got brief glimpses of the beautiful landscape.

 

Lago de Papallaca
Lago de Papallaca
Papallacta Waterfall
Papallacta Waterfall

 

Thankfully, the descent down was a lot easier, and much faster then our climb up. It was very apparent we were ‘ones with nature’ , because our guide, Pancho, told us “la tierra es nuestro cuarto de baño”, and yes we used it as such (sorry if that’s tmi). When we finished, we drove for a bit to another location, where the trail was a lot shorter, taking us about thirty minutes to see a waterfall, which was reminiscent of a fairy tale. We stopped in a small town to get lunch, I ordered la trucha (trout), which was delicious, and then we were on our way to soak our aching bodies in the thermal baths. There were several baths of varying degrees, and we worked our way up to the hotter ones, than regressed to the moderate temperature, and even took quick dips into the colder water- they say it’s good for the bodies circulation.

La trucha
La trucha

All in all, Papallacta, was fun, beautiful, and challenging, I would highly recommend it to anyway who happened to find themselves in Ecuador, especially if you are close to Quito.

The bad days….

This is the first of many of my Ecuador blogs, and I just wanted to start by saying sorry some of these posts will be out of order. I haven’t been diligent about getting my posts up on time, so I am going to focus on improving, in this area.

Well let’s not delay any further and get into the meat of this blog post dealing with the bad days, more specifically the bad, and/or difficult days you many experience while abroad. I would just like to start off by stating that while I am a sentimental person, I am not one who tends to get homesick. This does not mean that I don’t love my family or the people in my life, but I can deal with being on my own fairly well, and I accredit this to the fact that I am an only child. I am simply mentioning this, because for me the bad days aren’t necessarily about missing particular people in my life, so if you’re looking for a blog about how to deal with homesickness this is not the proper post.

For me, the bad days are when you question why you even decided to study abroad for a whole semester, when you feel like you’re missing out at home; when you think you may haven chosen the wrong country, or when your language skills are making you want to pull your hair and scream (I haven’t done it yet, but it’s been considered). To begin, I am currently in Quito, Ecuador a Spanish speaking country, and while I have been taking Spanish for a while and have intermediate communication skills, boy can it be difficult sometimes. It’s hard when you are speaking another language, and it’s obvious it’s not your native tongue, it’s hard when people don’t want to work with you and write you off as some incompetent Gringa, because you cannot fully express yourself, and it’s hard when you aren’t progressing at the level you want to. I’m a Type A, sometime-y perfectionist, and I am especially impatient with myself– I’ll be the first to admit, I enjoy knowing things, more than I do the process of learning.

The thing about studying abroad is that you don’t have full control, you can plan your trip and set your goals, and these are all great things to do, but at the end of the day your environment and your experiences are often, going to be out of your control. I’m continuously learning and growing here, and I am learning to breath and let it be. It’s a lot easier to focus on everything that is going wrong, to discourage yourself, however it is much more rewarding, to remind yourself of the progress you have made, and to reflect on everything you have learned. Sure it’s frustrating when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, and you aren’t fully understanding what they are trying to communicate with you, but in these times I try and remind myself “hey, you just took two new buses and navigated yourself to a museum in a part of town you had never been to before”, these reminders can be helpful and much needed.

There is no clear cut method to overcoming the bad days, because everyone is different, and processes their emotions differently. Personally, I have found it beneficial to allow myself to feel my frustrations, and then move on, get out of the house and try something new. I’ll go get my nails done, walk to the farmacia and order medicine (in Spanish, may I add), or try out a new restaurant. The important thing is to keep moving, keep trying and experiencing new things, and don’t let yourself mope and be discouraged. Remember, studying abroad is fun, adventurous, and rewarding, but it is also filled with hurdles, complications, and miscommunications, if studying abroad was easy, if it was comfortable more students would be willing to give it a try. Pat yourself on the back and keep it moving, because you did it, you took the leap of faith and challenged yourself, and with time you will become so much better because of it.

Embrace the bad days, the lonely days, the sad days, because it makes the GREAT ones so much better!

 

Babylonian Tales

I have included a few stories from the Mythology and Folklore class I took last semester, but I never posted my final project. I had a lot of fun retelling Babylonian myths in different contexts: historical fiction set in the Civil War, modern day life, poetry, and science fiction. The narrator is the scribe god Nabu, who has lived to the present day and wants to try his hand at being an author. I am quite pleased with the final result, which you can read here: Babylonian Tales: The Book of Nabu.

Carving of Nabu

Nabu

Haunted House Project

News Report: April 2, 1916 Lucas Dietrich, famous lawyer with an uncanny fascination for the supernatural and owner of the allegedly haunted Greybriar Mansion, was found dead in his car with the exhaust running at 6:45 this morning. Those who know Dietrich have come forward with statements alleging Dietrich was using methods to get in touch with the supernatural at Greybriar. The Coroner report released by the police department states the cause of death was suicide. However, supernatural enthusiasts have come forward stating they suspect Dietrich was killed by supernatural forces. Specifically, as an act of ‘ghostly vengeance’ in response to Dietrich’s desire to get in touch with the supernatural in destructive ways. Unfortunately, there are no eye witnesses to these communications between Dietrich and the supernatural. However, the local police has released a report stating they will be bringing in supernatural experts to evaluate the house and surrounding areas for any suspicious activity. If they happen to find anything out of the ordinary, it is likely the house will be made into a national monument or, if found dangerous in a life threatening manner, closed and torn down entirely.

 

News Report: April 20, 1916

BREAKING NEWS: After evaluation from the external area of the Greybriar house, supernatural experts refuse to do internal evaluations of the home out of concern for their safety and lives. Because reports were never confirmed on the exact cause of the death of Lucas Dietrich, the city Police Department decided the original report of suicide stands. However, close friends and family are unconvinced. Relatives are set to put the mansion up for sale following the closed investigation.