Sunday, April 26, 2015


My habbibis to get me through the semester
Living in a developing nation has really made me appreciate what the United States has to offer for its people.  I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into when I decided to come to Morocco, and I did, but some days are harder than others.

1.  I miss having rights.  As a woman living in Morocco, I basically have no rights.  I am not protected under the law.  As a "tourist" I have a few more rights, but not many.  

I cannot go out by myself because if something were to happen to me, I would be blamed rather than helped.  I cannot wear whatever clothes I want because if a man were to grab my butt while I was walking down the street, I would be asking for it.  (Even if I were completely covered up and this were to happen, I could do nothing except ignore it and walk away).

2.  I don't like that people stare.  It's socially acceptable to stare here; I've been here for four months, and I'm still not used to it.  Men can stare at you, but you can't stare back.  If you stare back, it's showing interest and says "hey, come talk to me".  NOT WHAT YOU WANT.

3.  I miss vegetables.  It's an odd thing to miss, but I miss them.  It's hard to find vegetables that aren't drench in some kind of heavy sauce or salted out of this world.  I just want some good sautéed vegetables with black pepper and olive oil.  When I do get vegetables here, I get as many plates as possible to keep me satisfied until the next time.

This is a toilette......
4.  I do not feel comfortable working out.  They have a gym, but I don't like running on treadmills very much, and you can only reserve them in 20 minutes intervals.  They have a track, but when it's warm, and I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I feel very uncomfortable because people stare...I really don't like the whole culture of staring.

5.  Western toilettes...let me tell you.  WE HAVE IT GOOD!  Haha!  No worries, the toilettes at school are like the ones at home, but once you leave campus, it's a crap shoot.  There's no telling what kind of bathroom facility you are going to find.

I've had my fair share of non-Western toilettes (holes in the ground), and I will not miss them at all!  Things get...difficult when that's all you have on a road trip or other places off campus.  Basically what happens is that I use the restroom as often as possible when I know I have access to Western toilettes and try very hard to never use it otherwise.

6.  I miss cooking and cleaning.  There's just something about those simple chores that can be so therapeutic after a stressful day.  I also miss doing my own laundry...the people here dyed three of my favorite white things yellow...THERE WAS NOTHING YELLOW OR COLORED IN THAT BATCH OF LAUNDRY!  I'm still a little upset even though this happened over a month ago now.

I apologize if this post sounds a bit whiny, but it's the truth!  However, I will say that I've enjoyed my time immensely in Morocco!  I've had to adjust several times to different things, but that's part of the experience.

Can't wait to see these crazies!
I would not trade this semester abroad for anything because I've learned so much about myself as a person, as a student, and as a woman.  I'm beginning to recognize my strengths and weaknesses as a travel; I know my limits as to what I can handle (for the most part).  While this has probably been one  of the toughest semesters, it's also been one of the most rewarding.

I'm so excited to return home and to see all my friends and family whom I have missed immensely whilst here... and have access to certain amenities that are unavailable here (*cough* *cough* tampons *cough*).

My Binkies

Let me update you on my life:
Lately I have been finding and doing little things to make my life here more comfortable.
I am officially fulltime at the International School Ruhr in Essen from 8am until 4pm everyday.  This means my day starts at 6 am to get ready and catch the 7 am train.  Its about a 40 minute ride, and then a 15 minute walk.  This is my everyday until July 3rd.  
In two weeks I will be starting two new units with two different classes, a study session for another, and personal one-on-one tutoring for a student who is falling behind.  So yes, I am busy!  Super excited to finally be doing what I need to do for my student teaching, but exhausted by the end of the day.  Oh well, its fun!

So back to becoming more comfy:
1) I bought my first ever thermos to travel with my coffee and tea for school!

2) I bought a flower for my room to livin' it up a bit (not sure how long it will live):
Yes, it is in a peanut butter container

3) I decorated my room:
Pano of my room!

4) I bought a bike for 20 euros:
Janky bike I bought from the back of a turkish guys van
Best experience of the week: Going to the market across from campus.  This market is two parking lots full of EVERYTHING!!!
The first parking lot had retailers stuff any and everything you could need to live.
The second parking lot were personal sellers (this is where i got my bike).
No one spoke english here (i had a german friend to translate, no worries)
Everyone was amazed when we told them i was from USA.
And a guy asked me to be his girlfriend.. he does not speak a lick of english.. it was great! 

Well my blogs may not be the most interesting from here on out, my adventures and travels will slow down after this! Keep ya posted on my student teaching though!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

I'm Walking On Sunshine

Can't imagine life without
my Aussies 
Since I have been back to Pamplona from my vacations, we have had beautiful weather! Spring is finally here and I am in love with it! Not only does the weather have me constantly humming "I'm walking on sunshine", but life in general does. We are close to the end of April, and under 2 months from the end of our time here and that has really sunk in since I returned from travel. Its crazy to think that these people that have become like family will not be a daily part of my life in not too long!
This doesn't even do
Carpa justice

I am resolving to not be sad about it though and to make the most of the time that we have here (we know how to live each day to the fullest!)

A perfect example of this is an event that happens every semester in Pamplona called Carpa. Basically its a huge party held by the different divisions at the Uni and is used as a fund raiser. The party starts at 9:30 am and goes until 5:30 the next morning! What even! I had no idea what to expect when we arrived (late might I add) at 11:00am Friday. It was incredible, as we got closer there were groups of students who had clearly been camping out for hours before. I was amazed, there was music, sunshine and just a general buzz of life around the place!
Class friends at Carpa!

No hay clase...
Vamos al parque
I ran into a group of students from one of my classes and we stopped to chat with them for a while. Naturally being education students, they had stickers! Luckily they shared and soon Zoe, Scott, and I all had stickers adorning our clothes and our faces and some to share throughout the day too. We finally made our way in and the day continued. It was amazing to see all of the different people from classes and of course all of the other study abroad students too. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere was indescribable. It was like the whole university was there and I loved it. Throughout the day we danced, sat on the grass, and just passed time in each others company, and naturally drank. At one point we sat making flower crowns, taking pictures, and laughing all while enjoying the day, the people around us, and the time that we have together. I have had a lot of good days in Pamplona but I have to say that this one has been my favorite. Finally at 3:30am I wandered home with a heart full and legs tired from walking on sunshine.

In love with these spring days 
On Monday we didn't have class and so a group of us decided to have a picnic in La Ciudadela. The sun was out, we all brought snacks and we ended up playing around with a fútbol (soccer) and just being silly. It really is things like this that have made this experience so amazing. Whether its 30 minutes in the park before class, a short walk that turns into hours of exploring the parks of the city, a picnic in the park on a sunny afternoon, a 16 hour party outside, or a late afternoon stroll under the freshly blossomed trees, I can honestly say that Primavera en Pamplona will be a spring that will stay with me for years to come.
I love all of them, Carpa, and flower crowns!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Vacation is over or is it?

As I have started into my second week back from Easter/Spring break I have come to realize we just thought the classes were easier here.  I have had 3 papers, 2 presentations all due in the last two weeks. One of my classes is in the last 3 weeks of classes so we are hitting it hard before the exam.  I am so tired of group assignments as well.  I have never realized how much I like doing solo presentations until this study abroad experience. No one can agree or wants to talk about the same thing, some don’t want to meet, and others have no clue to anything going on.  White girl moment “I literally just can’t even”. This has been in my vocabulary to much these last 2 weeks.  I have also have experienced 2 nothing will work to ease the pain migraines. Which doesn’t help my work load at all.  The classes have begun to be my enemies.  I just want them to be over most days. I am physically and mentally exhausted.  Right now the only things getting through these obstacles is the fact that I have a field trip next Tuesday and plans for awesome trips in May. I love that after May 6th I will have 4 day weekends. Makes it easier to travel.  Cinqueterre here I come!  Also my last trip which I think will be Greece but ask me in 2 weeks it may be different then.  My moto for the next few weeks is it will be worth it when you are away for the weekend.  Hopefully this moto helps.

As I am muddling through my classes here, my friends are nearing the end of their classes back home. (Slightly jealous) In bocca al lupo (good luck) to you on finals that are fast approaching.  I cannot wait to be back in Rocky Top and back at MC! I miss everyone.  Though I have had some complications on finalizing my schedule, housing, meal plan, etc.  Luckily I got my second choice of rooms, I’m approved for an international roommate, I have finalized my senior year schedule (hopefully), I have asked about meal plans, and I am impressed by my ability to get stuff done from 3000+ miles away.  I hope to come back and still be as productive. I want to say an early (in case in forget) Congratulations to my Graduating friends! May life treat you well! Also to my fellow (as of now juniors) we are almost there (sad/happy moment)! To my family I will see you very soon! I expect hugs, steak, sweet tea, cookies, biscuits, bbq or just meat in general, and more hugs.  Oh and my dog to already have a bath when I get back (so I can hug him too).   I am also ready for Luke Bryan in July! So excited for that. I have wanted tickets for a while so I bought them.  I’m ready for the stadium concert. Then it’s off to school in August. I miss y’all so much! Love y’all!

Ciao amici!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Here's the story of a girl... who has 2 blogs and cant keep up with either of them PART DOS

Hi again.

Since my escapades in Rosario, life in Cordoba has been exciting (because its been filled with soccer). I signed up to play on the Girls soccer team for my university- we practice 2 a week and starting last Saturday we had a tournament! it rained the entire time... but we won 10-1 and i scored 2 goals! GO SCOTS!! Word travels fast in my group of friends (A mix of exchange students from my school and University Blas Pascal, where Ben went last year.) I keep getting invited left and right to play soccer and its amazing how soccer brings people together.

Lets talk about my soccer team in Cordoba first:

  • the girls are wild- soccer is like 3rd on their list of priorities, but its okay because I'm in Argentina- so do as they do
  • They don't speak Englisher- well they do and most of them have been to the U.S before, but at practice and games, only Spanish
  • we have a group text on whatsapp... things get heated there some times and to be honest the majority of the time I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.
  • Going to soccer practice requires taking the collectivo (bus) for 1 hour, and then literally cramming 7 girls into the coaches car on the way home.
  • There is only 1 other exchange girl from France on the team, and she lives 1 block away from me- so were bffs 
    • Her name is Irene- she speaks better  Spanish than i do, but were on the same page with the girls.. we just sit back and nod our heads when they speak
  • Drills at practice.... nope. We did drills one time at practice and i had no idea what was going on. Its no different than one of Pepe's practices .. except in place of his voice is a Argentine man screaming at me like I'm supposed to know what I'm done... SIKE.
  • Ive gained more confidence in soccer, because at times the only common ground i have with these girls is the game. I may not be able to talk to them or say what i want, so i just do my thing (aka still run around like a crazy woman) and it works... alot better there then at school.... lol
My friends at UBP- aka the suburbs

  • to get to the zona norte is about a 35 min bus ride and then walking a billion blocks to get everywhere. I live in "el centro" which is basically the downtown area. every at UBP lives in the suburbs in awesome houses. i love going out there to hang out with all of them.. but its a hike.
  • Last Sunday, they invited me to play soccer with them. its a mixture of exchange students, mostly from Clemson, 2 Japanese guys, and then like 6 Argentine guys who take it way to serious. I guess women's soccer/ girls being good isn't a thing here, but when i scored a sick nasty upper 90 goal.. they were all shocked and one of them told me to calm down because i was playing better than him LOL...
  • once again, another group text on what app for this team too. they days they play conflict with my other team, so looks like Sundays will be my day to play with them!

Real life now-

  • My brain hurts all the time.. so mentally exhausted from thinking in 2 languages
  • every Tuesday- worse days of my life. Wednesday i have my "Historia de la cultura" class and i leave so frustrated and angry all the time. the class is 3 hours long, and its a philosophy class. we talk about deep things that are tough to grasp in English.. and in Spanish forget about it.
  • I struggle with my reading comprehension here. i can read the readings for class, but could not tell you what they were about, or have the courage to raise my hand/ ask for help
  • This past Tuesday i had a mental block- i was so frustrated and angry that i couldn't understand... i literally couldn't think. definitely one of the worse days I've had since I've been here, and coping with these away from friends and family isn't easy.
  • For everyone who knows me- Monica mode is real. its alive, and its worse here in Argentina. i get so frustrated because i don't understand everything- explaining myself in Spanish becomes impossible...
  • i never thought i would say this- but i miss the library at MC. i miss being able to just hide in the library and day and accomplish life. Here the library is at the main campus.. aka like an hour bus ride away and its just a hassle to go there. my house-full of 6 women- always has something going on and silence, doesn't exist.
  • I have trouble asking for help- my pride gets in the way too often. but the other day we made fajitas for dinner and i asked one of the women who lives with us, Roxi, if she could help me. we sat down and read/ discussed together and it was helpful.

Besides the slight mental break downs- life here in Argentina is awesome; as long as we don't have to talk about school. Below are 2 pictures that sum up life here:

the 1st is with Roxi- she rents a room in our house and is like our big sister. We all go out, eat together, drink beer and just talk about life. she corrects our Spanish and we help her practice her English. she just started taking English classes so at the dinner table we go over the days of the week and months. its interesting to see how other people pronounce words, and things that seem so trivial and obvious to us are complicated for others. I guess the same goes for Spanish too.

The 2nd picture is from the day after Easter. Our host mom, Myriam, wanted all of us to have a dinner together so we had Pizza. It was perfect in every way- so non traditional but the beginning of a relationship with her. She is a very private woman, and until recently, a "host mother" relationship didn't exist. we asked her one day to have dinner with us and just hang out and ever since then, things have gotten better :)

In the midst of writing this blog- i was invited to play soccer again. this time with the girls from our exchange group. they just asked in the group- "wait monica you know how to play right?" Maybe ill just stay in argentina and spread my love/ skills for soccer instead?

Here's the story of a girl... who has 2 blogs and cant keep up with either of them PART UNO

Hola from Cordoba!

I have been thinking its been a while since ive blogged ( sorry kirsten) but then i remember.. i have 2 and i can barely keep up with them.

Quick (JK) recap on my life- 

Semana santa- Solo travel pt 1: A girl, her backpack and her trusty Chacos

I took a leap of faith and packed my bags are headed to Rosario for the long weekend. I really had nothing planned, only a few points of interest written in my notes but nothing more than that. The only things set in stone were my hostel reservation, and my round trip bus ticket. I arrived Thursday night around 9pm, checked into my hostel and right after began to wander. I ended up at a pizza place, having half a pizza and a beer. Table for 1 please! After dinner I wandered maybe 4 or 5 more blocks to the river just to see it. I called it a night around 11 because I was tired from traveling and all the things I did before I left. Friday- I woke up around 10:30, had breakfast at the hostel and then took off on foot with a map in hand. I ended up losing my map (fell out of my back pocket) but I just wondered until the map turned blue- literally I ended up at the river. I stumbled across a boat tour on the river, it was 2 hours long and cost 90 pesos (9$) I sat on the upper balcony, next to a family with 2 small children to my right and to my left 2 friends from mar de plata- about 4 hours from Buenos Aires. Towards the middle of the trip we started talking about anything and everything and before we knew it the tour was over and we were all having lunch together. I really had no plans for the day, so after lunch they invited me to go to a park with them and walk around. They had a car so the trip wasn't as long as by foot, but we got lost legit 5 times.... With the gps on (their Gps has a accent from Spain and they were constantly bickering back and forth about how awful their "Gallega amiga" was) ** reference- if you're from spain , any part, Argentines refer to you as a Gallego/a.  I just sat in the back and enjoyed the ride! 
Once we got the park, called Parque Indepencia, we maneuvered our way through the crowds and found the line for the paddle boats in the middle of the park! At the same time we got on the paddle boats, a light show with the fountain began and it was synchronized to music and it was awesome! We paddled for around for 30 min and then drank mate together. I normally don't like mate but I was like hey, anything to fit in and make friends!! I burned my tongue because the water was scorching hot, but it's okay-memories !! After our escapades in the park, they dropped me off at my hostel and we had dinner plans for 10:30/11. We went to some restaurant that was a tribute to the Beatles, it was really cool! After dinner we walked a few blocks and went to another place for drinks and we were out until 4am.. I was exhausted; from walking all day and being in the sun, I was done for but couldn't leave my new friends hanging !!
 I'm really awful at reading maps and knowing my way around via a map, so the whole map thing and traveling solo was probably the hardest part. There was a free tour at 11:30 and I thought I knew where I was going, but in fact I was walking the exact opposite direction of the river/where I needed to be. I took a taxi to the meeting place for the tour and it ended up only being the guide and 1 other girl from Venezuela who lives in BA. I really enjoyed the tour, and saw things that I wouldn't have seen on my own. I just listened the whole time and absorbed as much as I could! After the tour, I found my way back to my hostel, WITHOUT LOOKING AT MY MAP ONCE!!  I charged my phone for a while and then the some people staying in my room invited my to lunch! Yay more Argentines!! We had lunch together and talked the whole time and they were amazed that i play soccer for my college, and not just on a recreational basis. One of the Guys wanted to practice his English so he talked in English and I answered in Spanish! After lunch, I met up with Ben's friend from Argentina. (Ben = boy on my soccer team at Maryville whole studied in Argentina last year) His friend Emmanuel, has just gotten back from the U.S. And from visiting Ben. He was happy to meet up with me, and him, along with his friend and I just walked around the entire city talking the whole in Spanish and anything and everything. He studied at MC for a jterm so he knew what like was like there. He worked for 3 months as a waiter In New York and then visited Boston, and finally Miami! We talked about the differences between NY, TN, and Miami and it was so awesome that we were actually on the same page!! We walked around talked for maybe 2/3 hours and after that I literally could not walk anymore. My short legs were done for; We covered the whole city!!!
 Around 9:30ish the hostel served dinner and everyone say in the lobby and watched soccer together and drank happily! I was so exhausted from the day that I decided not to go out, so I just hung out with the people from my room on the roof, and drank beers and discussed life. This morning I had all intentions of going to church but I didn't wake up in time..... But I had breakfast and drank my coffee on the balcony while face timing my dad. It really is the little things in life that matter. I checked out my hostel around 2pm and then walked( huge backpack and all) to the bus terminal, about a 45 min walk. I am here now awaiting my bus, which leaves in 2 hours! Just passing the time here and people watching !! I wish I was with my family, or even my argentine family (host mom and roommates in Cordoba) but this has been an unforgettable experience and I'm so glad I decided to travel alone! There are so many places to be explored and people just eagerly waiting to meet you. Argentine people are so nice and friendly it's crazy! They accept you in right away and just like that your spending the whole day with them like its nothing! 
-This Easter, I've learned to be thankful for what I have and especially the opportunities in front of me. I miss everyone back home, but I'm so eager to learn more Spanish and explore Argentina!! I hope everyone reading this has an Easter filled with love from your family and friends!! ** 
I came home, Easter sunday at night, to my host mother standing on her balcony, waving and yelling my name. This was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend! Things are finally settling in here and i couldn't be happier! The next morning, the 3 of us (Paula, Alison and I) were finally reunited, and all we could do was fill each other in on what happened. Alison went to Iguazu Falls, and Paula stayed in Cordoba for the week- the 3 of us are so different but we blend so well together. 

Pictures from the trip:
Oddly, there were no street signs, just these painted on the walls on the corner of each street
The views from the boat tour! it was so nice to be back by the water, it felt like being home in Florida again! vvvv
So many High Rise buildings- looks like Miami
IMG_0433IMG_0399      IMG_0431
There are 325 bikes painted around the city of Rosario- each symbolizing a person that was part of the "Disappeared"
This quote is from the bathroom stall of the Beatles restaurant; its so true!!
This is the Monument dedicated to the flag of Argentina. here the 1 st flag of Argentina flew

These are the days that never die...

Pretty flower St in Córdoba
I saw a quote the other day that said "Travel is the lure of becoming our true selves". I can honestly say that though this entire semester has embodied this idea for me, that I can connect to the sentiment even more now after the conclusion of my two weeks of solo travel.

Waffle? Mushroom?
You decide but either way its pretty cool!
You know, it's kind of funny because for traveling alone, I felt incredibly connected to not only myself, but also to the plethora of amazing people that I met along the way. Fellow travelers and hostel employees, tour guides, or a nice server or bartender all alike made this trip more special to me than even the physical beauty that I was surrounded by.

I think when you are alone, you learn a lot about yourself, but also about the opportunities that we have everyday to meet and connect with new people, to have conversations about anything and everything and to connect within hours or minutes with people who will in somehow or another add something to who you are. I learned new perspective, shared travel stories, discussed cultural differences and laughed to the point of tears on a rooftop terrace with friends that I am not likely to forget. I found that by being open to new experiences, and by being friendly, you can meet so many people. Whether it was making small chat with my fellow riders in my BlaBla cars, getting an insider scoop to the city, hanging out with the hostel staff, making friends on walking tours, or joining people for tapas or dinner, I found that these little things made all of the difference in my experience. I felt rejuvenated and the extrovert in me was skipping at the opportunities everyday to meet new people.

I am obsessed with
La Plaza de España
During one of my last nights in Sevilla I went to a free flamenco show that someone had told me about. It was truly incredible. I couldn't believe how amazing and talented the performers were. I learned a word in Spanish that they use to basically describe the felling of passion that a flamenco artist has to have to perform. I am constantly learning beautiful words like this for sensations that we don't really have in English, often we just use other words to describe them. During the show, I met the nicest family that was traveling with their children, seeing I was alone, they invited me to sit with them through the show and it was another amazing example of how traveling alone opens so many doors to meet new people. I learned so much about them and their home and life experiences. I was also amazed because though their older daughter had no formal education in English, she was able to communicate with me because she watches TV and listens to music in English! It's incredible! I am growing increasingly interested in language and its power during my travels as well.

I loved all of the tiles in the Alcázar
Crest of the Alcázar
Sorry, not sorry
about my Chaco pics
I finished my trip in Sevilla by going to the Royal Alcázar of Sevilla. This is an old palace that like other great edifices in this region has switched hands from the Moorish to Catholic rule over the last few centuries. The beauty was again incomparable and my favorite part by far was passing time in all of the gardens, they were huge and so beautiful. It was crazy to think of all of the historical figures who at some point in history have walked those same paths, enjoying the same beauty. It was kind of surreal. The same feeling followed me the next day to Córdoba, where though I started the day in a bit of rain, the beauty and intricate design of the Mezquita (a mosque now cathedral), was enough to make the entire day trip worth it. I felt so small in such a grad and amazing place. It is incredible to me that these structures have been around for so long and to think about the cultural significance that they have had for centuries of people.

Every provence has it's own area in La Plaza de España,
so naturally I had to take a pic at the
Pamplona one!
Finishing my trip was bittersweet. I had so much fun during my travels and I met amazing people, but I missed my Spanish home and all of my Spanish "family" in Pamplona. I love how much I enjoy coming back, it really shows me how much this city and all of the people that I have been lucky enough to get to know really mean to me.

If you ever get the chance to spend some time exploring a city, a region, or the world by yourself, I really recommend doing it, in the end you have days, nights, memories, and new friends to think about for years to come.

Side note: I'm pretty proud of how far my Chacos have made it around the world with me and I shamelessly always take a Chaco pic when I go to a cool new place.

Dis is nawt ocay

So last time I left off about to go to Italy!  After about 16 hours on a bus through the Alps (3 hour delay) and vineyards, we arrived in Milano! The weather was great, it was sunny with a nice breeze.  I even got a sunburn!! We saw the Cathedral, walked around a good bit, saw a castle, and the building where the Last Supper painting is hanging.  We didn't get to go in and see it because it was sold out for a week... BUT I saw the building!
Typical Leaning Tower of Pisa Pic
Milano Cathedral
After a day in Milan, we were suppose to meet at 9 pm... which then turned into 11 pm because of bus driver rules.  Then we didn't get to the hotel until 3:30 am and we had to wake up at 8 am....Everyone was veryyyyy upset with the company we went with.
The next day we visited Pisa, just to see the Leaning Tower then off to Florence we went.  It rained and rained cats and dogs the whole time. Everyone got soaked and wanted to leave... so we did!  We went back to the hotel for the night and had terrible pizza.  In the middle of all this fuss and travel, there was a lovely Chinese girl who entertained us with loud outbursts of anger.  For example when we couldnt find the hotel... she threw her stuff down and yelled "where is da f***ing hotel?!?" and "Dis is nawt ocay".  These two lines have now become our own inside joke and sum up the whole trip.  Our last day was amazing though! Venice was beautiful and we spent the whole day there with nothing going wrong!  I met a guy from Finland and his dad was originally from the States, so it was soooo nice to talk normal to a foreign person, someone who understood all my American sayings and country accent.  Best part, he lived in Bochum which is next to Dortmund! So I made a good friend!! Woooo

Sunset in Brussels

After Italy, I headed to Brugge and Brussels.  Brugge was my favorite because it was small and nice, Brussels was neat but there was not too much to see.  We did make a point to see the famous Pissing Statue of course and the Palace!  But nothing eventful really happened, it was just a nice relaxing trip filled with mussels, waffles, chocolate, and Belgian beer.  Oh, and we ended up in the middle of a Zombie Parade!

Now back to reality and student teaching!  I started at a new school, the International School in Essen.  Its about a 35 minute train ride and a 15 minute walk everyday, but its pretty and so nice to walk into a school where their main language is English.  The teacher I am working with is from Georgia and does not speak Germany... she has now sparked a fire in me... I want to teach abroad... cause its totally doable and being a teacher in Europe is on the same level as a doctor!  This had also lead me to start thing about grad school and other possibilities... its all new, overwhelming, but so exciting!  I am so happy at this school so far!  The kids are so smart and I feel comfortable around them (because i understand them).  So far so good!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sahara Trekkin'

Camel Trekkin'
Turban buddies!

The Sahara has definitely been the highlight of my study abroad experience thus far.  It's unlike anything I could have ever imagined or experienced.  I will probably never experience anything like it ever again, and I'm so glad that I had this opportunity to go.

We drove down on Saturday morning to Merzouga, our starting point.  We dropped our stuff off at a hotel in Merzouga, hopped on some camels, and traversed through the Sahara Desert to our campsite.  Let me tell you, RIDING A CAMEL IS NOT COMFORTABLE.  IT IS NOT LIKE RIDING A HORSE.

Proof that I was on a camel!
Other than the fact that I am still sore from my camel riding expedition, I HAD SUCH AN AMAZING TIME!  We rode for over an hour through the Sahara Desert.  All you could see for miles was desert...dunes...sand...sand...and more sand.  AMAZING!

My Professor Quirrel-esque Turban
We also saw the Algerian border!  Fun fact: The Moroccan army is stationed there in the desert for border control...I'm not saying...but I'm just saying that there could have been an Algerian invasion.  KIDDING!!  The conflict is in a stalemate currently with decent diplomatic relations.  NO WORRIES PEOPLE!

I was in a state of wonder the entirety of the trip.  I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was in the Sahara Desert riding a camel and playing in the dunes.  LIKE....OH MY GOSH!

Thanks Mom! The Buff came in handy
Moving on...we got to our camp, and everyone (except me) had a lovely dinner of kefta tagine.  For those of you who don't know, tagine is a wonderful Moroccan dish!  However, kefta is beef, and I don't eat beef, so instead I ate some rice and fruit for dinner.  IT WAS STILL GOOD THOUGH!

After dinner, tea, and fantastic conversation with some people from the UK (love the accents!), we climbed the sand dunes and looked at the stars.  I have never seen so many stars in my life.  I felt like I could see the entire universe from that dune.

Cool shadow picture
I felt incredibly tiny knowing that some of those stars have already died, but we could still see them because their light was only just now reaching the earth.  It's amazing how infinite the universe is and how much of it you can see in the proper setting.  Nothing can truly capture this moment that I experienced.  It was awe inspiring, and I wish that I could speak more eloquently about how I felt in that moment.  It's definitely a moment that I will never forget.

I SAW TWO SHOOTING STARS TOO!  And I made a wish on one of them, but I can't tell what or it won't ever come true.

Bonfire and Berber music
Our guides had built a bonfire at the bottom of the dune, so we sat around the fire and listened to traditional Berber music, which was quite enjoyable.  Afterwards, our guides invited us to sing and play some of our own songs and some of the other trekkers took them up on that, and we jammed out around the fire.  FANTASTIC!

"Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba"
The desert gets SO FREAKING COLD at night.  I was so happy that I had brought my wool lined leggings; however, the tents were actually super warm!  The inside of the tents were lined with carpets on the top, bottom, and sides in order to keep the heat in the tent during the night.

Look at me, I'm driving an AT-4!
The next morning, we watched the sunrise, and all that was running through my head was the song "Circle of Life" from the Lion King.  I thought it was appropriate.  We then hopped back on our camels and went back to the hotel for some breakfast of msemen and hard boiled eggs, the traditional Moroccan breakfast.

Now, to cap off our amazing trip, we rented out AT-4s to ride out in the Sahara Desert.  This is another thing I've never done.  I've never ridden one of those things because it always seemed scary.  IT WAS SO FREAKING AWESOME!  Granted, I was nervous, so I rode on the back of one for the first bit.  SO FUN!  Then...I got to drive.

The crew
I would just like to point out to the world that I DID NOT CRASH!  I did a great job, and had a blast driving!  It was a tiny bit scary at times, but I WANNA DO IT AGAIN!  It was such an adrenaline rush!

I brought MC with me to the Sahara!
This trip will be imprinted on my mind for the rest of my life.  It was such a unique experience that I've dreamed about for such a long time.  I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever get this opportunity: one to travel abroad and two to trek through the Sahara Desert on camelback.  Sometimes I think it's all just a dream, and I have to pinch myself to remember that I'm alive and awake and that I'm actually in Morocco.