¿Soy fan de fútbol?

Before yesterday, I had never been to a professional fútbol (soccer) game before, so naturally, as I’m currently in a Latin American country, going to a fútbol game was on my Ecuador bucket list. As someone uncultured in the world of fútbol, I’m more of an U.S. football and basketball person, I looked at teams, in Quito, and picked the best one, La Liga, so my title was accurate I am a proud bandwagoner and ‘fake fan’ of the one of the best teams in the country.

The game I went to was La Liga v. El Nacional, both teams are from Quito, and of course La Liga won with a score of 1-0, but we underestimated fútbol traffic, so unfortunately we missed the first, and only goal of the game. ¡Qué triste! It’s okay though, we already decided we would be going back for another game, so honestly it’s really no problem.

Pjeezy y yo nos gusta fútbol
It’s ya girls Pjeezy and Jen

So, let me give you a price breakdown, from a U.S. college student perspective, on how affordable it was to go to this game. We arrive, yes it’s was a bit chaotic outside, but in a tolerable way, we walk up to the ticket booth, there are still plenty of tickets available, and we paid $12 to sit in Tribuna Occidental, which was not the rowdy caged in section, that area is a little to ‘extra’ for me. Then, as the supportive newfound fan that I am, I had to purchase some paraphernalia to show my support. I bought a knock-off jersey for $6, honestly that price still shocks me, reflect on the price of overpriced band t-shirts, it’s wild the differences in prices, very pleased aquí. Inside concessions were cheap, cerveza was $2.50 (this is Pilsener country), hotdogs for $1.50, and similar prices for other items.  Why can’t professional games be this affordable in the states, plus ubers here are pretty cheap as well we got to the game for about $6.35. Basically, the moral of the story is if you have time while traveling in Latin America, go to a fútbol game, it’s fun, affordable, and a great cultural experience.

Sports enthusiast,

Jenna

La simplicidad de nada

Isn’t it interesting what we notice, when we take a moment to slow down and take a look at what’s around us? Something, as simple as taking a stroll could show you your new favorite restaurant, coffee shop, book store, or who knows what else. It’s crazy how by slowing down we can embrace what is around us. For the first month and a half, I would go on weekend trips con mis amigas to different parts of Ecuador (perks of not having Friday classes). However, since during the week we were mainly in class and doing homework, and then on the weekends we were exploring different cities, and towns, I really didn’t know what Quito had to offer, besides what anyone could find on a TripAdvisor page, or the like.

After, Spring Break, or La Semana Santa aquí, most of us were a little traveled out, and also broke, r.i.p to our bank accounts, after not working for the entire semester. So for about four consecutive weekends, we have all been in Quito just chilling, and exploring. My primary weekend exploring companion has been one of my new friends here, Erica, who similarly to me loves a good meal, and a stroll around town. I know that description made us sound like two old ladies with two much time on our hands, but honestly that’s not an inaccurate assumption.

In, our few weekends home, I’ve become a pro at using the Ecovia (a primary bus line), where it only costs $.25 to take a ride, so why not? I’ve gone to el mercado artesenal near Parque Ejido just because, I’ve discovered that their is indeed a Quiznon’s in Quito, a fantastic churro spot, delicious Venezuelan arepas, a gelato hangout, and several coffee shops, one of which I am utilizing now to write this post. Sometimes, I have to go out of my way to explore, but that’s one of the beauties of study abroad, or just travel in general, exploring getting lost, and just enjoying oneself. It also helps, that I don’t mind exploring on my own, I know this makes some people nervous, but I’m just exploring my city not actually traveling alone. This has allowed me, to do things that maybe my group of friends wouldn’t have wanted to do, or fills my time instead of me sitting at home watching Netflix.

Comparable to how I was, originally, some people tend to spend so much time traveling to other countries or cities, instead of enjoying what they have at ‘home’ or at least around them. So whether or not you’re studying, traveling, or just living your day to day life, I want to challenge you to explore and create an experience in your own backyard. I do not doubt that you’ll be amazed by how much more you enjoy, and appreciate where you are when you take a step back and just live a bit.

Just take a walk,

Jenna

Let’s Chat…

This is going to be pretty brief post, but I wanted to write a very honest piece for you all. It’s common that when people are studying abroad, we, the audience, the outsiders, only get to see the beautiful, intellectual, cultural moments. However, as someone currently studying abroad I can tell you study abroad is not a one dimensional entity. Therefore, I am going to share a very real experience with you all- getting sick.

I’ve been battling a sickness for about a month now, originally I thought it was food poisoning, then when I got sick a few weeks later, I thought it was due to the higher elevation in Cusco, Peru. But, when I got sick again for a third time, and my normal medicines weren’t working I realized something really wasn’t right. Turns out I had a parasite, it’s kind of comical (not really, truly an awful experience). Luckily, you can pretty much buy anything, without a prescription at an Ecuadorian pharmacy and I was able to pick the appropriate medicine, after asking a friend who had also suffered the same fate.

I plan those dang chocolate covered strawberries I bought from a vendor in Baños, which made me sick. I’m usually really good about not eating street food, but ya girl was stuck on the bus and chocolate is my weakness, plus they were only $1. Do you know the kind of terror you encounter, when you have to take a a 3.5 hour bus ride home, and you are praying that the anti-diarrheal pills work (they did thankfully)!? I can say I have experienced it all now, and sorry this post is a little TMI, but the people need to know it isn’t always butterflies and rainbows.

The point of this post is to remind you 1) listen to your body, especially when you aren’t in your typical environment and 2) just because you don’t see a picture of my dying because I’m suffering from my illness doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Studying abroad is magical experience, but even magic can have its dark side, so don’t disregard the real-life, sometimes uncomfortable aspects, that can come with the experience.

 

Signed,

A finally recovered and reflective Jenna

P.S. Still had a really great time in Baños, in spite of what occurred.

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!

 

Baahubali- ‘One with Strong Arms’

One of my favorite pastimes is watching movies, whether it is a silent film, a foreign film, a cult classic, or a new action packed blockbuster, I’ll watch just about anything once. I had just gotten out of a long day of class on Thursday, October 19 and I was casually sitting on campus and decided to scroll through my Facebook feed, unwinding for a bit. I saw an event pop-up on my timeline from the Indian Student Association (ISA), stating that they would be showing the film Baahubali: The Beginning. I realized I had no plans, and nothing to study for (relatively speaking, this is college there is literally always something to study for), so I decided to head over and watch the film. I have never been to an ISA event on campus, but I was not too worried, you don’t have to know people well to sit around and watch a film with them. Baahubali is actually a Tollywood film, which simply means it is apart of Telugu Cinema, which is another film market in India where the films are typically in the Telugu, or Bengali.

Growing up as a kid, my mother and I used to watch Bollywood music videos on Saturday mornings, so going to watch this movie was an nostalgic experience for me. Whether it’s Tollywood, or Bollywood I adore the vibrant characters and colors within the films. I love the exaggerated acting, the fast-paced romantic developments, and of course the choreography and melodic tunes, of the musical numbers. If you ever find yourself in a bad mood, I would strongly encourage you to watch an Indian film, you will laugh, cry, and rejoice with the characters onscreen. Also, it just offers a differing experience from some of the monotony from many of the films produced in the United States currently, don’t get me started on our film industry though, that could be a whole blog series. All I’m going to say I throughly enjoyed the movie, and will be watching Baahubali 2: The Conclusion on Netflix soon. So, if you are debating whether or not you should go to a new event by yourself I say go for it, I had a great time and made a couple new friends.

Final Thoughts: Italia

Overall, I have/am greatly enjoyed my study abroad experience, and luckily I was able to stay in Italy for another week once the program ended with my family. Since, this was my first abroad experience I believe it was helpful to do a structured study abroad program, this way I could learn the ropes and get acclimated to living in another country with both a hands-on, and hands-off approach. The study part of study abroad can be a bummer sometimes, because when you are in a new, and beautiful country the last thing you want to do is sit in a classroom, five days a week for four hours and do real school work. I am appreciative though, because I took challenging classes and I would much rather take them in Italy for five weeks, then spend a whole semester in Norman taking those classes. It is hard sometimes, especially when you have class at eight-thirty in the morning, sometimes a girl just wants to sleep in. I feel like academically I have been challenged, but I have been engaged and have enjoyed learning. Outside of the classroom I feel like I have matured and have gained more knowledge about myself and others, as well as what makes a good and a bad tourist. I am eternally grateful that I was presented with the opportunity to study abroad with the Michael F. Price College of Business and I truly value this experience, I strive to retain what I have learned and apply what I can to my life back home. Grazie mille Italia!

Euro > USD: Italia

The exchange rate from the euro to the dollar has fluctuated since its inception, the exchange rates for several years, per Statista, are as follows- 2002: .95, 2007: 1.37, and 2016: 1.11.  I think the exchange rate does change how people perceive a country or its products, for instance if a country has a higher exchange rate it implies that they have a stronger, more profitable economy. The higher euro to dollar exchange rate did not change my perception in Italy, because I know that both the Italian government and economy are not the best in the EU, so needless to say I know they are not the one’s contributing to the higher exchange rate. If the exchange rate was lower, I think I might spend some more money in Italy, because my money would be worth more here instead of less, so while I do still shop and spend money I am more mindful about what I am spending, because I know the price I see on the price tag is not the actual price I am paying. I hate to say this, but in my opinion the price of alcohol is one of the biggest differences I have noticed between Italy and America, here in Italy you can buy a bottle of wine, or a six pack of Corona beer for under two euros, whereas in America even cheap wine costs about $8-10 dollars, and a pack of Corona is around $10-12 dollars. Also, eating out is relatively cheaper overall, obviously if you are in a tourist area you will encounter high prices, but you can find a lot of affordable meals in Italy, whereas in America, besides college towns you usually cannot eat for less than $7 and if you want a drink you are almost at $10. The other day when we were waiting for our train I got a sandwich and a fruit juice for 4.70 euro and my friend got a cappuccino and a croissant for 2 euro, that is quite unheard of in the states. I think food is a bit overpriced in America, but or average salary is higher than that of an Italian, so maybe it is all relative, that I would have to do more research one before giving a concrete statement.

 

General Observations: Italia

We have seen McDonald’s at or near every train station we have visited so far in Italy, and I feel like it is both similar and different from America. They have a lot of similar products like you can get a Dr. Pepper at the McDonald’s and a Big Mac, even though they are more expensive here. However, the menu has adapted to fit the Italian culture you can get cappuccinos’ macaroons, donuts, and other bakery items which I have never seen at an American McDonald’s, I can’t tell you how the food compares taste wise because I stopped eating McDonalds’ a long time ago and I have no intentions of starting again now.

One thing I found very interesting, and like quite a bit is the social/nightlife aspect of Italian culture. When I talk about nightlife I do not mean the bar and club scene, I am referring to the casual and routine way Italians gather with their friends and families to fellowship at night. In America, nightlife is primarily saved for adults, and one weekends for teenagers when their parents give them permission. Here it is something natural, every night I am amazed at the number of young children I see out after 10 p.m. strolling around with their parents. This leads me into my next point which is their meals, in particular dinner, unlike America where we eat chat and leave, Italians usually engage in several courses and reacquaint themselves with everyone at the table during dinner. I personally do not want to sit down for dinner longer than an hour to an hour and a half, but I can appreciate the time to just be present in the moment with those around you. It calming to just sit around with friends over a good plate of food and check-in, and invest in the people around you. Another thing I have noticed is that Italians are very friendly, especially if you are polite and attempt to speak some Italian. During our long weekend, we had the misfortunate of getting locked out of our Airbnb (I won’t’ go into specifics I could write a book about this), but a sweet yet diligent Italian Nonna was persistent on helping us and within thirty minutes we were back in our apartment. She was under no obligation to help us, and when the problem was not readily resolved she did not shrug her shoulders and toss us off, instead she made it her personal mission to help us out until the issue was resolved. For what it was worth it was a pretty good learning experience for us, even though we were anxious in the moment, and this is not to say Americans are friendly because I think we are but I think it is important to point out the hospitality of Italians.

One thing about Italians that did not frustrate me, but I believe it would if I lived here for an extended period, is their overtly casual way of doing things. Granted in America we have a hyper-worked society where sitting down for five minutes means you are losing the winning edge in this game of live, or so we are taught and Italians are well, completely opposite. I went to go get a crepe one day at five o’clock, because the restaurant said it opened at four thirty, but when I got there they were still setting up and needed an additional fifteen minutes before they were, so essentially they were not actually open for business until forty-five minutes after they initially said they would be. There is a blatant lack of urgency, which is a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the U.S., but let’s just say I would never want to need a taxi in Italy because who knows how long it will take for them to reach you. I believe Americans could slow down and work a little less, and Italians could speed up, and work a little more.

Stream of Consciousness: Italia

Considering that Italy has been my first true international experience I have undergone a whirlwind of emotions while on this trip, and fortunately almost all of them have been positive. Some of my favorite moments have been the simple times, like when my friends and I went up to the park on the hill and I gazed out at the breathtaking view of the Arezzo countryside. It was so calming and I had a moment of “wow, you are really in Italy”, we all sat around drinking a glass of wine and just living in the moment. It was such a relaxed environment; we were surrounded by the sunset and everything in that moment was perfect. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Pomaio winery, I felt very mature, and it was a unique experience to experience firsthand the business process of a winery. For example, I had no idea it takes around seven years for wine owners to start receiving any real revenue, I cannot imagine how financially backed, or secure you must be to go into the wine industry without defaulting. Also, we just got back from our long weekend yesterday and that was an incredible experience. We stayed at a semi-traditional Airbnb in Marola, a suburb of La Spezia. Thanks to the poor timing of the train strikes we ended up going down to Porto Venere for the day (it would have been too expensive to taxi to Cinque Terre) and went off to the little beach of Palmaria. In a way, the train strikes were a hidden blessing, for if they had never occurred we would not have visited the quaint and beautiful Porto Venere, or enjoyed the solitude of the rocky beaches of Palmaria. The water was crystal clear, I would love to go back and trek around the island, for Porto Venere has an old-world charm, with stunning views of the sea.

Cinque Terre was a literal dream and exceeded my already high expectations, we visited three of the five lands: Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. I found a really pretty scenic route around the town of Riomaggiore so we saw everything we could, and even took some unnecessarily steep stairs to visit castle ruins. We headed down to the Marina like trip advisor advised and they were not kidding when they said you could get a postcard picture of the town. Next, we headed to Monterosso to enjoy the beaches, the water was warm and since we were not in the peak of the high season the beach was filled with people, but it was not too crowded where we could not have fun, and it also started to clear out around four thirty. Finally, we headed to Vernazza, we were tired by the time we got there so we kind of just looked around ate some delicious gelato, and then we preceded to head home.