Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Holidays Abroad in South Korea

How was your thanksgiving this year?

I wanted to tell you some of the holiday plans I made this year. Last year, I went
to Seoul Fireworks Festival, bungee jumping, Jinju Lantern Festival, and
sightseeing in Gyeongju [Read more about it in my very first blog post here]. This
year was time to experience the traditions in a Korean Family's home. Before we
continue, check out the amazing view of me hiking in Korea for the first time!

Korean Thanksgiving (Chuseok - 추석) Tradition
This year chuseok is about 5 days compared to 10 days last year. Fortunately, my
Korean friend invited me over to his home to experience “REAL” Korean
Thanksgiving tradition. I took a train to Ansan about 1.5 hours away from my dormitory.
I prepared some gifts as it is customary to show your appreciation when you are invited
to someone’s home. I had Hawaiian coffee and some Filipino mochi I bought at a nearby
market. When I arrived, I was surprised to meet the my friends family and relatives. I met
his parents last year before Christmas, but it was first to see his dad side. His cousins
had some good English and I enjoyed eating with them and we sang at a noraebang
(Karaoke room) after.

When I woke up, there was a strong aroma of food being cooked and prepared. The
family and relatives were setting up the table and the men were dressed in tuxedos. But the
women and the younger girls were just on the side watching. The men take turns
honoring the ancestors by pouring drinks and serving rice to specific ancestors.
Then at each turn, everyone, including myself, bowed down to the ground twice.
Each food and drink placement is important on the table on this ancestral right - 차례.

Also, the mother of the household insisted I take a lot of pictures and videos since
it is my first Korean Thanksgiving, so it was fine to document this experience.
However, I was wearing only a polo shirt and pants and wished I brought a
more formal outfit.

After honoring the ancestors, they cleaned up the area and separated the tables in
the living room. Everyone sat down together and we ate the food we prayed over. We
got to enjoy some soups, fruits, vegetables, fish, and other entrees. Not many
Korean families celebrate this holiday tradition with the formal ancestral rights. In this
picture there is a rice wine (백세주) in a silver cup that is said when you drink it you
will live for a 100 years.

Family Outing

After the ceremony, they allowed me to nap because I was exhausted from the
school’s midterm exams coming up. They took me to a popular shrimp place
where they cooked it fresh and serve it fried as well. Then you can get a
knife cut noodles with seafood. All foods that I had from their house to nearby
cities was amazing.

Finally we ended the trip with going to the nearby sea. This place had a nice
boardwalk where you get to see the ocean and the landscape. They also got
some snacks to feed the sea birds, which was a interesting experience but
you should not always do this hahaha. I am very thankful for their hospitality.  
A few days later I went off to Jeju, so checkout my next blog post!


Monday, December 10, 2018

Taxi Driver Story Time

While study abroad leaves you with a strengthened resume, amazing stories to tell your friends, and a poppin’ Instagram profile, my favorite part of my summer in Amman, Jordan was the incredible people I met. My host family felt like real family by the end of my stay, the other students in my class will be my lifelong friends, and internship supervisor became one of my greatest role models. However, one of my favorite impressions that was made on me was by a conversation I had with one of my taxi drivers.

On the way to my internship one morning, my taxi driver mentioned to me that he was of Palestinian origin. As an International Relations student, who has studied the Palestinian-Israeli crisis for years, I was extremely interested in what this man had to say about the crisis. Research and class lectures can not compare to being able to hear a point of view from someone who has actually experienced the hardships caused by the tragedy.

He knew that I was American, and the US has played a negative role in the crisis (in my opinion), he in no way had any sort of hostile attitude towards me. He even wanted me to come to his house to meet his family and teach his daughters English. At the end of the ride, he offered me some of the cake he was eating.

I will always remember this experience because it demonstrated to me that the people who have faced extreme adversity in life always have the most kindness to give. It also reminded me of lack of open-mindedness I sometimes feel in America. He never judged me for being an American or seemed to have any bias against me, which might not be the same case had the roles been reversed, and he was Palestinian student in an American taxi.

Communication Through a Language Barrier

While I was in Amman, Jordan I lived with a host family. I had a host mom, host dad, three host brothers, and a host sister. My host brother who was in the middle age-wise, host sister, and host dad all spoke English, whereas my eldest host brother and host mom only spoke Arabic. Going into this study abroad, the host family experience was one I was most excited about. However, making a connection with my host mom and eldest host brother was difficult, at first. If you are planning on studying abroad in a country whose primary language is different than your own, even if not required by your academic program, I recommend learning as much of the host country’s language as possible. Not only is this a sign of respect, but it also allows you to connect with the people you meet on a different level. Unfortunately, I did not put a lot of effort into learning Arabic before my trip and was subsequently unable to communicate very well with my host mom and eldest host brother. However, overtime, I learned ways to communicate and connect with them without using language. My favorite example of this is one night my host sister and older two host brothers were out with friends, my host dad was working, and my youngest host brother (3 months old) was asleep. My host mom knew enough English to tell me she was bored. While it would have been impossible for us to have a conversation, I decided to try to teach her how to play a few different card games. She understands English numbers because all of the phones in Jordan use English numbers, so through a few times of me demonstrating how to play and through trial and error, her and I were able to have an entire night of just card games. In the end, she beat me almost every time and we had a great night together just playing cards and laughing without even having to talk.

Meaningful Internship Experience

While I was in Amman, Jordan I interned for a NGO called Sisterhood is Global Institute Jordan (SIGI - JO). During this internship, I was assigned free range to develop my own project to benefit the organization. Given these guidelines, I created a curriculum based on Self-Empowerment and Protection to be taught in sessions to adolescent women at SIGI-JO’s clinic for Syrian and Palestinian refugees and underprivileged Jordanians. Working with a language barrier in a culture very different from my own, provided invaluable lessons in communication, understanding, and empathy.

Throughout my undergraduate career in International Relations, I learned a great deal about the Syrian refugee crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I knew about the effects both of these tragedies had on the people who experienced them. However, spending time with this group of girls made me realize just how disconnected from all these issues I actually am. I was in Amman to try and make a difference and help those affected by the refugee crisis, but the hardest part for me was that in six short weeks I would be flying back to the United States where, as a woman, I am free to pursue pretty much anything I want. The girls I was working with did not have this same option. While they were very grateful for the lessons in the clinic my colleagues and I provided for them, no amount of physical self-defense, goal setting, and information on the importance of education could change the fact that some of them would still become subject to unwanted arranged marriages, prohibited by their families from attending college, and unable to return to their homes in Syria or Palestine due to ongoing conflict. This made me realize how separated I really am from the issues I study. It made me realize that if I want to go into the field of humanitarian action, I must be able to use my emotions to help beneficiaries of humanitarian aid and not to overtake me. While it was a very heart wrenching and sometimes devastating experience, it made me realize reality. As this was one of the most difficult realizations of my life, it confirmed my plan to work in humanitarian action following my graduation. Before this trip, I had a few ideas of what I might want to use my degree for, but I was never sure. This experience ultimately confirmed my future goals. Though it is an experience that will always weigh heavy on my heart, I am so grateful for it.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

How to Climb Mt. Fuji

Hey guys! Today I'm going to give everyone a quick rundown on how to climb Mt. Fuji.

Mt. Fuji (The largest standing Mountain in Japan) is only open during the summer months since most of the year the Mountain has snow covering the summit. The most popular way to climb the Trail is the Yoshida Trail starting at the 5th Station, you can take a bus from Fujikawaguchiko (富士河口湖) to the 5th Station where you can climb to the Summit within a day. Although this way is popular, another way (and the way that I would recommend) is starting from the shrine where people who did the pilgrimage thousands of years ago started. Sengen Shrine (浅間神社) is the name of this shrine. From there it is about a 20 mile hike to the summit. this took me about 8 hours.

Since I went during the first weekend of the Climbing season, weather on the mountain changed about every 5-10 minutes the higher I got. One moment it was raining and the next it would be snowing, then it would be clear! By the time I hit the summit (頂上) it was -1C (about 27F). The reason I chose to do the long pilgrimage was to challenge my endurance and to say I climbed the entirety of Mt. Fuji.

WHEN YOU CLIMB FOLLOW THE 3 POINT RULE!!!!!! This rule means always have 3 points of contact on the mountain at all times! Mt. Fuji is a very steep and dangerous mountain if you are not careful. There are parts of the mountain where you have to climb over rocks! make sure you come equipped with gear that has good grip so you don't slip!

Another big thing when it comes to climbing the mountain is making sure you have enough food and water. Pack enough food as if you are going for multiple days as you do burn energy up quickly and each station's food can be quite expensive.

The last thing I wanted to quickly cover was about one thing that is a must do when Climbing Mt. Fuji, to watch sunrise! I climbed in the dark overnight to make it to the top of the Mountain in order to be able to watch sunrise from the top!

If you plan on Climbing Mt. Fuji while in Japan here's a small list of things you can refer to when packing to go:
-Multiple days worth of food and Water
-Warm Change of clothes
-Heavy snow gear (It is freezing up top with the windchill!)
-Camera (It's an unreal view up at the top)
-a Cool Change of clothes (for when you go back to the bottom because it can be upwards of 40C (100F) in Japan during the summer!
 -Good Grip Shoes
-Flashlights (For nighttime hiking)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Photo post!

5 of my favorite things to do in Barcelona, Spain 

1. Bunkers del Carmel 

Most beautiful spot in Barcelona and by far my favorite. The bunkers look over the whole city of Barcelona and is amazing for pictures. You can either do a 40 min hike up to the bunkers or take the city bus that takes you right to the top. This place is perfect to go at sunset and have a little picnic while looking at breath taking views. Me and my friends went about 4 times on the trip!!

2. Gothic Quarter 

 Walk around this old historic area and you will fall in love.  This area is one of the oldest in Barcelona and has so much beautiful architecture. My friends and I wondered around the narrow street for hours. Its also a great place to take pictures.

3. La Boqueria

This is the cutest little market in Barcelona. You can find fruit, juice, fruit, meat, fruit, ice cream, and more fruit. Everything is super cheap in this market and the juice and fruit is the best. Make sure to bring cash because most of the venders only allow cash. My friends and I often went here to get some cheap fresh food and then went shopping!

4. Sagrada Familia 

This famous church is most likely one of the most beautiful churches you will ever see in your life. The famous architecture Gaudí designed the church starting in 1882 and it is still not finished. They say it will be done in 2026, the 100th year anniversary.  The church has so much detail that everywhere you look you see something new. I walked past the church while going to school and I was in awe every time. 

5. Montjuic Castle  

Montjuic castle is located at the top of Montjuic mountain. My mom and I took a cable car to get here and with your study abroad student ID you can see the castle for a discounted price. Here you can learn all types of history and also see amazing views of the city.