Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Settled In

As my first month in Prague is coming to a close, I have found that I feel more at home in this wonderful city. I have fallen into a routine between work and school. I can easily find my way around the city and I have a better idea of where to find the items or services I may need. Also, the language barrier has not been an issue. I am happily very busy between my internship, school, and trying to get to know other international students. This routine that I have found myself in is actually helping me deal with some of the things that I, at first, found irritating: lack of air conditioning, not having access to a dryer, and one of the smallest kitchens in the world.
I did get ill during my first month in Prague. It was comforting to know that I was able to pick up cold medicine (which worked wonderfully) and I had access to an English-speaking doctor if I felt I needed one. I was allowed a long weekend to rest and get well. This helped me get off to a good start in my new class the following Monday. This experience has given me a lot more confidence in being able to exist in unfamiliar environments. I hope traveling, living, and working in different countries is a part of my future career.

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Zealand, ISA Bridging Cultures Program.

Before you read: This is the best condensed version I could do of my first partial week in New Zealand. It might be a bit much to read for one post, but if you do you won't regret. If reading this is too much, the pictures can be found on my Facebook profile! Ginny's photos

First Day in Auckland
Upon landing in Auckland (and taking about 30-ish minutes to get off the plane) around 8 in the morning, the other interns and I made our way to the hotel to drop off our bags and begin our day. I wanted to fall asleep as soon as we got on our transit bus, but I also didn’t want to miss a moment of being in the land of the long white cloud (Aotorea). Just the drive from the airport to the hotel was like no other. Being from East Tennessee, I thought that I was used to seeing a lot of green. But this…this was something I’d never imagined. The only way I could think of to describe it was like a jungle had asserted itself into the city. But as I came to see on my walks through the city, I noticed that the way that Auckland was built was the opposite of my assumption. Auckland had somehow managed to establish its urban network without disturbing the natural life that’s been present for hundreds of years and there was no way to not be in awe at every turn. I also saw a Target on the way in.

While the first day was mostly uneventful (the ISA mentors thankfully taking pity on our post-international flight state), there were still many memorable points. With one of the other interns (Charlsie), I visited a convenience store in lieu of a lunch and perused the snacks that had been recommended to us by one of the locals like Tim-Tams, Pineapple Lumps, and Chicken Chips. It was the first time I got to spend the gorgeous currency that is the NZD even if it was a bit confusing.
The walk-through Auckland was also the beginning of the pleasant realization that Asian culture is a prevalent component of the culture here. At one point, I went down a street that contained at least 5 Asian restaurants in a row. Additionally, the convenience store had more than a few of my favorite Asian snacks that are such a rarity back home.

This day came to an end with a brief learning session about what to expect with our respective internships and some preparation for our hongi for the visit to the Aut Marae the following day. Per tradition, this consisted of denoting a male chief of our group along with the song that we would present to them. After deciding and practicing for a bit, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner at the Fortuna Buffet in the Sky City Hotel.

Y’ALL. If you think you’ve been to a good buffet, think again. This is the BUFFET OF BUFFETS (in my humble opinion). The Fortuna Buffet was housed in an opulent building of which during our ascent, we passed by a casino and several niceish bars. Eating at this place has begun a questioning of the way that Americans do food. Upon eating to my heart’s content, I returned to the hotel and immediately fell asleep. 

Walk to Aut Marae and Then on to Rotorua
In the heart of Auckland, there is a marae which is a communal sacred place for the Māori. According to Jason King, a Māori lecturer with the Auckland University of Technology, this is a rarity for a marae because they are usually in the more rural parts of New Zealand.
To enter the marae, guests must first be called by the “grandmother” of the house which is done with a Māori song. But this is only where the welcome into the Māori house begins. As the grandmother sang, we (the other interns and I) removed our shoes to enter the communal part of the marae with the women entering first and the men at the back as the protectors of our tribe. The men of our group then took the front row of our side as the spiritual protectors while the women sat behind them. Jason later elaborated on why we sat on our respective sides as being related to the location of the statues of the ancestors. Because we were outsiders to this marae, we sat on the side with the ancestors of the outside tribes watching us from behind.

Jason then spoke to us briefly in Te Reo to welcome us further and then our elected male “Chief” gave a speech in return that spoke of our background and our gratitude for being welcomed into their house – which quite frankly it was. Even with my limited knowledge of the Māori culture of this point, I was still excited and honored to be a part of a cultural event properly. The grandmother and Jason then sang a Māori song to us after which we sang our chosen song in return: “Follow Me” by Uncle Kracker. Not the entire song, but enough for Jason to recognize which I found surprising. Luckily, this means that he’ll at least remember our group for years to come. After this exchange, we partook in the part of the ceremony referred to as hongi (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite aspects of Māori culture). The act itself is quite up close and personal, but the meaning of it is something I find beautiful. The physical part is the touching of nose to nose then forehead to forehead, and then a kiss on the cheek but this seemed to be specific to this marae. The nose to nose represents the sharing of the breath of life – like the first Māori woman created from which all Māori descent – while the touching of foreheads represents a sharing of minds.

Following the hongi, we shared some snacks as the ceremonial “breaking bread together” part. This was the part where Jason told us that we were now part of the house FOREVER but I didn’t really mind. Becoming a part of something bigger seems to be an important part of the Māori culture and this goes way beyond just the elaborate welcoming ceremony. In fact, the house itself is designed to reflect this. At the entrance outside into the communal space of the marae, there are arms that beckon out to guests to come into her embrace, or rather, into the house which represents her womb. On the inside of the roof, there are rafters in the colors of the rainbow that represent the different international communities.

The mainstay of the marae. 
Women in Māori culture play a very important role in that there are some ceremonies that cannot be done without them – like the welcoming into the marae. Jason aptly put it this way: “Men teach their sons, but women teach nations.” In fact, the mainstay of the house (aka the part of the house that the ENTIRE house leans on) is a wooden carving a woman holding a baby. This isn’t as common for marae, but I think it was a good choice.  

The remainder of our time before the hangi (sharing of a meal) in the marae was spent in a fast-paced, condensed version of lessons that Jason teaches about Māori culture to his university students or members of the Māori community. We learned how to say various Māori phrases like our name, colors, and sing a love song. We even practiced a game that Māori children use to hone their hand-eye coordination which involved simultaneous singing and perilous throwing of wooden sticks. At the end of the learning sessions, we explored the marae and took pictures with the various murals of the demigod Maui as Jason explained what they meant and why Maui is so important in Māori culture. In short, Maui messed with the wrong goddess (Goddess of Death) in a bid for immortality is, failed, and is now the reason that mankind is not immortal. 
Me with the statue of Maui transforming into a lizard to try and kill the goddess of death.
Fun fact: Maui's fish hook is believed to be his grandmother's magical jaw bone. 
To my disappointment, our time at the AUT Marae came to an end and it was time for us to head out to Rotorua.

To Rotorua (Hobbiton)
 So….our ISA chaperones/mentors thought it necessary that we spend the bus ride to Matamata in Rotorua watching Fellowship of the Ring. Following my newfound appreciation for the Lord of the Rings, I’m glad we did because it makes the films even more enjoyable. My conclusion at the end of the tour: Peter Jackson’s unheard-of level of attention-to-detail is undoubtedly what made Lord of the Rings so memorable and one of the few book-to-screen adaptations to be regarded as better than the book.
I still may not know as much a LoTR fan, but here are some pictures with some reasons why and for your enjoyment.
This cat is a long-time resident of the Green Dragon. 

The fake oak tree with 20,00 fakes leaves wired in and individually spray-painted different shades of green and gold.
The hobbit hole of the Baggins'.

Learning the Ka Mate Haka
In Māori culture, a haka is typically a war cry or dance of honor. The modern concept of this has developed into a pre-rugby match ritual of the Māori All-Blacks as a proclamation of their strength and prowess to let the enemy (the opposing team) that they’re out for blood (metaphorically, mostly).  But learning a haka is more than just learning the words and learning the moves and doing them all together as loudly as possible. As we committed the words to memory, our teacher Tiki explained what each line meant and who the haka was honoring. The haka “Ka Mate” was written by Te Rauparaha when he was hiding from an enemy tribe. He was in what seemed like a hopeless situation and was saved by the power of a hairy woman who caused the sun to rise again which allowed him to step out of the darkness to live another day. The movements that accompanied each phrase made it rather easy to remember. For example, at the line “Whakawhiti te ra”, you raise your arms and look to the sky to symbolize that the sun is rising.

After we had practiced many many times, one of Tiki’s coworkers (aka Bros) informed us that we were going to perform for a small crowd visiting the Tima Tangata exhibit. Then they geared us up in traditional Māori costume (halter top, apron skirt, and headband for the ladies and fur pelts for the dudes) and painted our faces with ta moko (chin for the ladies and full-face for the dudes). Before going out for the big performance, Tiki gathered us all in a circle in something akin to a prayer. But this wasn’t so much a prayer so much as it was a moment of remembrance. Before you can even think to perform, you must think of who you are honoring and channel their spirit. According to Tiki, what makes a haka good is when “you are so filled with the spirit of your ancestors that you can’t be contained.”

Our audience for the haka was a local special needs school who enjoyed our performance enough to perform a song for us in return and engage in hongi. After our performance, our ISA chaperones gave us enough time to change out of our haka-wear and properly explore the Tima Tangata exhibit. Tima Tangata is an ongoing exhibition that is in honor of the Māori history of rugby. While looking around, I took a chance to speak with Tiki’s colleague (whose never I, unfortunately, cannot clearly recall) who had a partial moko on his face that seemed to extend over his chest and arms. I had the assumption that ta moko is something that a person must earn but to him, it is ultimately up to each person to decide when they are ready and how to they want to show theirs. He told me that he came from a bad life and made a lot of bad choices that he had to keep working past to become better, or worthy of his moko. Related to this, the steps refer to stepping up (like haka) and realizing that things are bigger than just yourself and our responsibility to be better for not just ourselves. His example of this was that rugby had changed him for the bitter and he wanted to give back by helping with the exhibit. This belief of wanting to give back to something bigger is something that comes up in Māori culture a lot and just goes to show how immersive and united their culture is. 
The Tima Tangata exhibit sign. 
Keep an eye out for my link to the video of my group's haka!!!

Going to Wai-O-Tapu 
So fun fact: there are natural geothermal mud pools that are basically giant boiling pots on the route to Wai-O-Tapu. It was really dark and didn’t smell very pleasant, but still, a fascinating sight as you can see. 

Coming up next: sad Ginny in a heavy downpour as an explanation for why she doesn't have many pictures of Wai-O-Tapu with her fancy camera. 

And lastly...my last day that part of NZ at the Hamilton Gardens can be seen in one of the albums the link above!!

Thanks for reading and stop by later this week to hear about my first week as an intern in Wellington!!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nagoya Meshi: Misokatsu

Byjan Kajaei
Nanzan University
Summer '17 (ISEP)

Hi, friends! It's time for another blog post from yours truly!

I'll be talking about Nagoya meshi today - local cuisine in Nagoya, Japan that is unique to this region. Many of these dishes are variations of typical Japanese foods. The flavor of Nagoya meshi tend to be on the strong side. Mamemiso, hatcho miso, and red miso are often used in these dishes. Mamemiso is made with soy beans, salt, and water. Compared to other varieties of miso, it is darker (a brown closer to black) and not as sweet. Nagoya's miso soup uses this miso. When it comes to the prices of these dishes, they can range from inexpensive to expensive.

Misokatsu from Yabaton - a famous misokatsu restaurant in the region (from what I've heard). We waited in a line that went around the restaurant! It went by much more quickly than I expected though. I ordered this misokatsu with rice and miso soup as a set for $11.

One of the most popular dishes (and so far my favorite one) is misokatsu. Misokatsu is thick, salty-sweet red miso sauce poured over tonkatsu (deep fried breaded pork cutlet). The sauce is made from miso, bonito fish stock, and sugar. Misokatsu is also delicious with toppings such as Japanese mustard, mayonnaise, and sesame seeds. It's honestly worth trying misokatsu several times, as the flavor and consistency of the miso sauce, toppings, and the thickness of the katsu varies from place to place.

Misokatsu from one of my university's cafeterias! You can very clearly see the difference in the miso sauce compared to the one from Yabaton. This misokatsu was topped on a bed of rice and it cost just $4.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Nagoya, please take the time to try Nagoya meshi!

Other Nagoya meshi:

  • Tebasaki (Japanese-style fried chicken)
  • Ogura Toast (red bean paste on toast)
  • Ankake Spaghetti (spaghetti with a spicy and sticky sauce)
  • Miso Nikomi Udon (noodles in miso broth)
  • (and so much more!)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Welcome to Incoming 2019 Students

As you’re beginning to prepare for your time at Maryville College, you may be wondering how to find out a little bit more about what’s on campus and the surrounding area.

Maryville College is known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience, all while building a community of students, staff and faculty that will help you along the way.
picture of Barlett Hall atrium with international flags hanging
Bartlett Hall with flags representing all of the students on campus
Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation in partnership with others. Founded in 1819, Maryville is the 12th oldest college in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Maryville College has about 1,200 students, representing approximately 40 states, the District of Columbia and 30 other countries. To take a virtual tour of campus before you arrive, go here and click on the “Tours” tab. You’ll be able to watch videos about the campus and do small photo tours for some buildings.

In Maryville, there are many things to do within walking distance. If you’re a coffee lover, you may want to visit Vienna Coffeehouse for a cup of Joe or to see one of their many live music performances. There are also many restaurants, cafes and shops downtown and beyond. In the early Fall and late Spring, Maryville hosts a small Farmers Market on Saturday mornings where you can explore local produce, baked goods and other delicacies. If you like being active and outdoors, you’ll love Maryville’s Greenway, a system of biking and walking paths around Maryville and Alcoa. A short drive away there is also Foothills Mall, a small mall with shops, department stores, and a movie theater. In neighboring Alcoa, there are many shops, restaurants and supermarkets that are easily accessible by car.
Maryville Downtown
Maryville Downtown and Greenway

Outside of Maryville, there are many fun and interesting places to visit close by. Knoxville is just a 30-minute drive from Maryville and has many fun things to do. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is an excellent way to reconnect with nature and is a short drive away.

Get ready to explore this coming year because eastern Tennessee has a lot to offer!

Foreground: Anderson Hall (the oldest building on campus!)
Background: Great Smoky Mountains


Monday, June 19, 2017

by Brittney Mack
Nagoya, Japan

I was so excited to come to Japan, but as soon as I landed in Tokyo I had a few issues. First, in the U.S., my luggage goes directly to my final destination, which in this case was Nagoya. So I didn’t grab my check-in luggage at the Tokyo airport. I later realized that I needed to grab my luggage and recheck it in even though I wasn’t going far. I had a difficult time trying to find my bag and was worried I would miss my flight. I eventually found it and received a new ticket which was different from my original. It took me to Nagoya but, an hour later than I expected. As a result, my pick-up service was no longer available. I freaked out for a bit, but it was late and I had to be at the dorm before 10p.m. So I immediately got a taxi to the school. Luckily, I had yen on me and the address in Japanese. Once I got to the dorm, my Japanese was put to the test. The caregiver was explaining the rules and how things worked. I got the just though I barely understood. I began to think about how much I would struggle with my level of Japanese. I worried about the kinds and cost of food, transportation, and books for my classes. I was the only one in my dorm room that night, so I spent my first night in Japan alone. I felt very homesick.

However, I felt significantly better the next day. I walked around the area and found the campus stores, the supermarket, and the subway station. I also met some friends and my Japanese roommate, Yukimi. Since then, I’ve met many more people and now feel comfortable living here. Also I have been enjoying my classes and my community. Now, I almost don’t want to go home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Beginning of the Prague Experience

My first two weeks in Prague have been a blur. I do not only have a great opportunity but I am also in a great atmosphere. I get to learn in the beautiful, old city of Prague. While I enjoy living in this city, and in this great apartment, there is still a lot to get used to. The first major adjustment is being a small town girl in a city. It is much louder and busier than what I am used to but the change in pace is welcome. The language barrier is not a major burden considering many people in Prague speak English or, at the very least, can understand me. We were also given a short lesson on some important words to know in Czech. Thankfully, History of the English Language has proven to be useful when it comes to pronouncing these words and phrases.
Food is another thing which I will have to adjust. While McDonald's appears to be universal and the local restaurants offer some of the best food I've ever tasted, I am not used to the limited selection of products in the grocery stores. Grocery stores in cities tend to be lacking, especially when grocery stores tend to just be mini markets, but it is also compounded by the different, and missing, brands and packaging in Central Europe. However, this is a welcome challenge as I get to test my cooking skills. I look forward to being challenged over the course of my time here. This is a great opportunity to learn and grow and I am glad I made this decision. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trash in Japan

Before I left on my study abroad trip, I had heard about how difficult sorting trash in Japan was. I had no idea it was this complicated though.

Trash is sorted into different categories - the ones I've used the most are empty cans, pet bottles, burnable garbage, glass, and plastic containers/packaging. Trash categories are typically labeled somewhere on an item itself or the label. Depending on the area you live in, each category of trash is collected on a different day. It's very important to have your town's trash guide, because each town and district has completely different systems. Also, different categories require certain designated bags that you have to purchase at the store. Not only do you need to sort your garbage, you also need to clean it. Pet bottles, glass bottles, and plastic containers need to be rinsed out and completely empty before you throw them away.

You must be thinking why trash collection is so tedious here. Well, the fact is that there is a lack of land suitable for landfill. When it comes to the United States, it has much more land to use for landfill.

After I drink a bottle of Coke, I rinse the inside of the bottle, throw the cap away in the plastic trash container, pull the plastic label off, throw the plastic label into the plastic trash container, and then the bottle is disposed in the pet bottle trash container. When it's time for glass bottle collection, I have to walk a few meters away from my dormitory to throw the glass bottles away in a bin on the street.

At supermarkets in Japan, plastic bags are three-five cents a piece. Everyone typically brings an eco-friendly bag for their groceries. In addition, trash bins in public are very scarce. Unless you're at a convenience store or at the subway station, it is very likely you'll have to wait until you arrive at your destination to throw away your trash.

I went to a cafe at Nagoya University this past weekend, and this is what the trash section looked like.

On the left, you throw out what's left of your drink (if any), and then place the cups on the tray so it can be sorted accordingly. Other restaurants/cafes follow the same rule, so it can be quite nerve wracking if you are new to this kind of trash system!

Until next time! 👋