Sunday, April 19, 2015

A visit to Barefoot College

Of all our visits to different NGO's and schools, I picked to share my experience at Barefoot Collage.
Before I even decided to come to India I watched a TED talk by the founder Bunker Roy. To come and see the place in real life was so surreal. If you haven't seen this TED talk yet you can watch it underneath:

We spent one and a half day here and got to see all the different departments. To my surprise, Barefoot is more then just a place for women to become solar engineers- it has great diversity of work. 

For example, they have people from Barefoot who do Puppet Shows in the villages, where they use this form of medium, which is an ancient Indian tradition, to tell stories. However, it is not random what these stories are about. They use the stories to make people think about deeper questions and make people talk about different social issues. One man explained, "I can tell these stories to all. To literate people and to non-literate people. This is what I do."

They also had a night school for children, a center for frugal innovation (to make use of all the things we usually throw away), toy making unit, a mosquito net and sanitation napkins making units and a water testing unit (they work in 200 villages). 

Their biggest success have been changing the mindset of people. Changing the mindset of the government and showing people that if you can work- you can make a change. It was also pointed out that education does not have to happen in a classroom but can be done outside in a variety of ways as well. 

Barefoot Collage does not go into areas and give the communities things. They work with the communities to show them how they themselves can manage. One man explained, "we might argue and disagree with community members but we still support them. It is through this continued work with the communities that long lasting change will happen."

On campus

World Map of Hope- Loved this!

Barefoot Collage Campus

These women know how to make and operate these solar cookers. They are a total of 13 women working on this. It is not normal for the women here to work outside the home but they have personally deconstructed the typical gender stereo types that are engraved in society. They wish to popularize this technology and have more women step forward and to the same work they do.

The women sharing their ideas, thoughts and future hopes for their kids.

They have a radio shack where people can call in and talk about social issues and it is broad casted on the radio. Topics that are usually brought up is community rights, employment, compensation, minimum wages, sexual violence etc.

This is the women's training workshop. By the end they will be solar engineers and will go back to their home country and continue their work there. They just arrived a couple of days ago and are in this picture learning the names of the different parts. They don't speak English and don't have any common language but are still able to learn. Incredibly inspiring and amazing to see.
Night time activities in our room at Barefoot.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

London to France part 2: PARIS

Viva La France!

Aloha all! I had to do a separate post for Paris because I think this is the most well-known travel destination. And there are a lot of things I have to say about Paris.

I made a huge mistake about Paris before arriving - please don't do these things that I did.
1. Think you can see Paris in one day.
2. Think that everyone in Paris is rude or mean.
3. Think Paris is a dirty city - they have made lots of changes to care for their city but still watch out for the dog poop.

The reason why I chose to visit Paris in a day is because I had a misconception that Paris could be viewed in a day. NO! There is so many amazing things to see and do. Paris is not just the Eiffel Tower. Also I chose to take the Eurostar with my room mate because it is THE THING TO DO if going from London to Paris. First of all, it is a high technology and high speed train that goes underwater from the United Kingdom to Paris in just under two hours. I have never been on a train that goes under water before. Also it is so much more comfortable compared to the plane and a train station (King's Cross & St. Pancras) is 15 minutes walking distance from my flat in North Gower. I think the train tickets amounted to nearly $230-$250 round trip. A bit expensive and if you have a budget I suggest you take a plane for 30 pounds which might end up nearly being $50+expenses getting to the airport maybe 60$?

After the two hours train ride you arrive in Gare du Nord which is the main train station in Paris. All their major stations are known as Gare, I think. From then on you can take a metro to museums or other places. We chose to go to the Louvre museum to see the Mona Lisa because we thought it would have the longest line. Yep, we waited for 40 minutes. If you don't want to wait you can buy online tickets to avoid the line or enter through a shopping mall. This museum is massive and I could have spent all day viewing the art gallery. Of course since we had little time so we ended up walking to the Champ Elysees which is a street like Times Square - very touristy - BUT they have the famous macaroon bakery called Lauduree where one simply must get macaroons. Because they are so famous and well known it is quite expensive. I recommend just having high tea and a macaroon (coffee or tea with a macaroon). Next we went to the Eiffel Tower. I also recommend getting no line tickets. We waited too long to get tickets and didn't have time to go on top of the Eiffel tower (because you have to pay for the elevator) or walk the stairs which takes time...that we didn't have. There are champagne places and restaurants on the top of the eiffel tower. Also another extremely romantic thing to do.

About Paris: I did not think the people were rude at all. Every one was so helpful and nice. I found that if you said Bonjour and showed that you were trying to understand even just the tiniest amount of French they were way nicer than if you approached them saying, "Hi do you speak english?" My room mate kept doing this and their reaction to her was different from me speaking French. In other words they were more hesitant to help us when we approached them speaking English. Not because we were Americans but because English is there second language! *Tip: Words to know in French, "Bonjour" , "Pardon" (Excuse me), "Ou est? / Ou se trouve?" (Where is the..? Directions). "Je ne pas parles Francais/Francaise" (I do not speak french).

The reason why we travel is to break stereotypes. Traveling is not just for personal enjoyment or vacation but it is also another way to learn. Especially to learn about other people and cultures.  If you think what people say about Americans being rude is hurtful or mean or silly or stupid than what do you think about the stereotypes about French being rude? Anyways... I cannot speak for all French people. This is my experience alone but since I have travelled to France four times and have not had a rude experience...that is all I can say right?

Enjoy France and Au revior!

London to France

Viva La France! 

 Aloha, Nicole here! I was fortunate enough to travel all over France during my study abroad in London and I would like to share with you my traveling experience.

First of all,  traveling in London is very easy. There are about four airports...the  main one being Heathrow. Then there is Luton, Gatwick, and Stansted. Each are about an hour away from central London and there are tube (under ground train), coach (bus), or trains that will take you directly and at cheaper options than taxis. Coaches are the best option because they are most comfortable and range from 10 pounds to 12. Trains are great too if you have a one that goes directly to the airport, which most do.

Second of all, there are various of airlines offering cheap tickets...most of my tickets were round trips and cost $200 or less. You can look at skyscanner for the cheapest flights or Easyjet. *Let me warn you that sometimes flying with the cheapest airline isn't always the best. Also because these are small airlines you have to pay for extra baggage or if you prefer to sit next to someone. If you don't want to pay for that no problem!* Easyjet is my favorite because it is easy and comes with an efficient Iphone app where you can save your boarding pass and put in information of your passport for easy check in. Easyjet also has great offers on tickets for certain times of the month. An airline to avoid: Ryanair. Ryanair is quite cheap and also allows two carry on bags while Easyjet only allows one carry on. The thing about Ryanair is that you must always arrive early and remember to get your boarding pass signed from passport control. If you arrive late then they will charge you 50 euros and tell you that there is no room for your baggage in the airplane because the people in the front has taken up all the space with their two bags. This happens a lot and it's a thing they will do on purpose.

Third of all, you can find cheap hostels or use an efficient website called AirB&B. AirB&B is a bed and breakfast sort of thing. People, yes regular people, can list their houses or flats for a low cost. It is cheaper and more cosy than staying at a hostel or hotel because you have a private room and a kitchen and t.v. It may seem sketchy but its best to find listings that has a lot of pleasant reviews. Also make sure if you want to be staying a couple nights with the owners who actually live there. There are options for the whole flat or just a private room.  Most people are extremely friendly and give lots of privacy. I've stayed at two AirB&B places because I preferred privacy and local advice and it was great!

Places I traveled to:

Yes, I am a little bit in love with France. Particularly the south of France which is on the Mediterranean waters...also known as the French Riveria. And of course there is no place more romantic than Paris.

There is something about France that is just a beautiful mystery! At first I was absolutely terrified because of all the horrible stereotypes about French people being rude or mean blah blah blah. I took french for four years when I was in 6-7th grade and 10-11th grade. So it's been a while. I found that the French do not care if you are American or French or Spanish, they treat everyone the same way. I also found that the French do not judge. They spoke to me in French and they were patient with me even though I could tell they struggled understanding my pronunciations. Here is a tip!!!! ALWAYS greet people and say Bonjour. It is like how you say hello or smile to strangers in Hawaii. Learn about their culture and participate with them and don't get mad when they can speak English but refuse to do it. You are traveling to their country to learn about their lives and history!

Staring with the South of France: Lyon, Nice, Cannes, Monaco. 

1. Lyon was a spontaneous trip. It isn't a well known tourist destination but I had to go with my flat mates because The Kooks (a band from England) were playing in that area and we are both really big fans, obviously. Took Easy Jet to Lyon and stayed at a hotel known as Hotel Camponile, this is a chain hotel in the best locations because they are always situated near train stations or airports! Stayed for three days and two nights. There are beautiful museums of film and photography and lots of art museums.

Le River Seine 

A roman arena...or what's left of it 

Me with my two Argentinean girls. 

The Kooks!!!!!

2. Nice, the French Riviera. There are no words for me to explain how much I love the French Riviera. If you like luxury and the ocean and yachts and sun...well this is the place for you! I chose to visit Nice with a high school friend because it was perfect Easter/Spring break location. There is 71 miles of beach. One downside is that there is no sand it is all pebbles or stones known as gallets. So you have to bring a beach blanket and beach shoes to walk on the beach. The thing about Nice is that people go here to relax. There isn't much to do besides enjoy the great food, crepes, the beautiful parks and the ocean. Life is very relaxing here and I felt like I was in Hawaii - if I closed my eyes. (At this point I was extremely homesick and I told my friend that if I didn't see the ocean soon I would be so depressed.) *Note: However Nice is really close to Monaco and Cannes...two other great beach locations which you can explore in a day. 

Nice, the Cote d'Azure beach promenade. This view is from a famous Chateau on a mountain that is an easy climb with a bunch of look out points.

During April 1st, Europe is still a bit cold. I think the weather was about high 60's. But the sun never felt any better. 

 I mean look at the color of the water! It's beautiful.

 This is one marina behind the Cote d'Azure. Look at those boats? I am in love with boats because my Grandpa had a boat and it reminded me so much of my childhood memories. The atmosphere of Nice is one of my favorite types: relaxed, chill, happy people, and beautiful scenery.

3. Cannes (pronounced Kan),  my friend wanted to meet her room mate here so we used an app called Blahblah car which is like Uber, kind of. It's for people who just want to make a little bit of extra cash. They post their trip, for example, Nice - Cannes at 9:00 to 5:00 round trip. My friend and I did this and met a really nice guy who was working there for the tourist seasons. Our trip cost 8 euros for both of us. Great fast ride and cheap as well. Cannes was an interested place after Nice. I didn't find it as exciting because there are high end shops like Prada and Dolce & Gabana right across from the beach promenade. In other words, Cannes is for rich old people who can bask in luxury. After eating crepes and gelato, my friend and I took a trip to a small island known as Saint Honorat where monks have lived for 160 years tending a vineyard and holding church seminars(?) I am not religious so I don't know anything about this. The trip cost 16 euros round trip! Now this little island changed my mind completely about Cannes. It is magical and private. I suggest going here with your boy friend or girlfriend. You can walk the whole island in an hour and sit at various benches with a view of the ocean - cozy and private. There is also a beautiful abandon monastery that reminded me of a castle and upon entering it I felt like I was in the video game Skyrim.
The church where monks hold sermons and the public is allowed and take their boat to have mass. 

The castle on the reef. Tres magnifique! 

Cannes actually has sand. The water was still freezing cold but it was lovely to sit and relax on the sand. There are also many expensive beach restaurants. I suggest only having drinks there. 

 This is a view of the church on island Saint Honorat from the top of the abandon monastery which you can explore freely.

4. Monaco is known for their Monte Carlo casino. Another high luxury place. It seems like Lambourghini's, Mercedes, BMW, and Mercedes allowed only. Also they hold the grand prix here. Monaco is the most beautiful place I have ever been to in France because not only is it by the ocean but it is also very well kept. There are tropical plants every where and people are constantly keeping the parks and roads clean. Everyone is well dressed and looks effortlessly cool. The yachts are absolutely beautiful. We also stopped for some gelato here. We took a bus from Nice it was 14 stops.

Me tanning them legs!

Although Monaco is its own country, this marina resembles the one in Nice. The Grand Prix course wraps around here this marina. 

This is an ocean observatory on top of a mountain where a most beautiful Aquarium sits. I recommend this Aquarium because they have student discount and help pass the time. There are four floors and two areas where you can touch sharks and turtles. 

This is a beautiful street on top of a mountain. The buildings in France are all beautiful, colorful, and quaint. If you love architecture like me then you will go crazy. 

 This is another photo from the Aquarium in Monaco. You can see all the airplane marks in the sky.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Getting Ready to Climb Aboard

The decision to study abroad is easily one of the best choices I've made while attending HPU. In just a couple of days I'm leaving for Falmouth, Massachusetts to take part in a SEA Semester - Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC). This program is not to be confused with Semester At Sea! A SEA (Sea Education Association) Semester takes place on a tall ship - a one hundred and thirty foot long, double-masted, steel-hulled sailing vessel with a maximum capacity of 35 students and crew; not aboard a massive cruise ship! I'm extremely excited to take part in this three month long adventure abroad. I have sailed aboard tall ships multiple times, but never for this amount of time. While I may feel somewhat at home on a floating abode, there is still a lot of firsts coming my way, and it has been a source of anxiety in my everyday life. My program MBC is the most science-intensive program offered by SEA, with classes focusing on marine ecology, biological diversity, and marine resource management and sustainable practices of coastal communities. The program starts in Woods Hole, MA, where SEA is based. This is the first "first" for me - I have never been to Massachusetts, let alone during winter! I was born and raised in southern California and then moved here to Hawaii - I feel as though I am in no way mentally prepared for a month of living in the snow! I have borrowed snow boots, winter coats, gloves, and snow caps, but daily highs of 35 and overnight lows of 18 are not particularly inviting! However, my excitement to meet my fellow student sailors far outweighs my insecurities regarding the weather. The majority of us have met via a group page on Facebook, posting about ourselves to get the introductions started! I am easily the student traveling from the furthest - over 5000 miles! The majority of students are from the New England area, and I'm looking forward to exploring Boston with the locals! After a month in snow, I'll experience my second "first" - traveling to Puerto Rico! We get to the small island two days before we board the ship, and most of us are staying in the same hostel. While it is always nerve wracking to go to a new place with people you don't know, I cannot wait to explore! While in Puerto Rico I hope to find more beautiful beaches, delicious local cuisine, eclectic communities, and a simpler, slower way of life. Hopefully we'll be able to experience a lot in just forty-eight hours! On April 20th we board the ship - this is the day I am most looking forward to. We set sail in the early afternoon, our bow set to Bermuda - another first for me! I have never seen the Atlantic, let alone sail on it or swim in it! I'm curious to see the difference between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, especially while we collect data for our individual science topics. Mostly, I'm excited for when we lose sight of land. For many people, this would most likely be the scariest part of the trip; thankfully this is where my sailing experience comes in hand. There is nothing similar to turning 360 degrees and seeing nothing but light blue skies and dark blue ocean. Personally, I feel no sense of panic or loss - on the contrary, I feel empowered and confident that we'll find our way to where we need to go.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Activism Through Art in Matagalpa - My Research Project

I've arrived in a new city! I've spent the last two months living in the capitol city of Managua in Nicaragua, but traveling to other places almost every other week, too. On Saturday, I moved to the city of coffee and chocolate, Matagalpa. I'll be staying here for the next month to begin my research project. It will be a nice change in pace to not be moving around all the time, but I already know I'll be very busy here (like always).

My house looks down from the mountains into the heart of Matagalpa. 

My project will focus on how the people of Nicaragua are using art in public spaces (street art, murals, graffiti) and cinematography for social change or social movements. Here in Matagalpa, I've already seen a good amount of feminist art; the feminist movement is very alive in this particular city. It's exciting to see how the people are taking to the streets to express their feelings, perspectives, and ignite discussion. Much of the art says things like "La revoluciĆ³n sera feminista o no sera," or "Las mujeres bien portadas rara vez han hecho historia." In English, they say "The revolution will be feminist or it will not be," and "The well-behaved women have rarely made history."

It's exciting to see the amount of willpower and drive that the communities have to change things for the better. I've learned a lot about the people of Nicaragua, and they have such strong hearts. The excitement to continue my research and complete my project is overwhelming, and hopefully I can share it with you all when it is complete!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Incredible India

Wow! Incredible India. I've only been here for two months and already I've explored, learned and seen more than I would in a whole year. It's incredible to be apart of such a different study abroad program. We have normal classes but have also spent a substantial amount of time outside the classroom traveling and visiting schools, NGO's and other organizations.

We are 21 students who are based out of Jaipur, Rajasthan where we all live with host families. The program is, "India: Sustainable Development and Social Change." Most of the days start with Hindi class and then we have lectures by different activists and professors who come from all different parts of India. The semester has been filled with many different activities and there is not much time to process all the things we learn and experience.

We have been completely immersed into Indian culture and now speak survival Hindi, cross the trafficked roads confidently, bargain with rickshaw drivers and shop keepers, love Indian foods and chay (tea), love Indian clothing (especially sarees), know that patience is our best friend and learned things that have changed our perspectives on everything from education to the caste system to climate change and social change.

As we have enjoyed many parts of India and this incredible program it has been a roller coaster of an experience. This place is definitely not for everyone and if you want your world perspective rocked up side down then India is the perfect place to come. This place will teach you to not take yourself too seriously (and not anything else for that matter), go with the flow, have patience, be positive and work with each situation as best as possible.

I find that the combination of classroom lectures and real world experience is the best combination and gives for a so much more holistic and valuable learning experience. To read more about this program click here. 

 Here's some pictures of our time in India so far.

First school day greeted with Indian lays

Fort over looking Jaipur city

In conversation with village girls in Bikaner

Visiting a village in Bikaner

Taj Mahal, Agra


So majestic.

Indian style toilet. Here they don't use toilet paper, they use water to clean themselves. Which is actually better then using toilet paper. By the way, our group got over being shy about poop, diarrhea and vomiting the first week because the transition to all the new bacterias can be rough on your health and many of us got sick.

We love henna tattoos!

India's most popular sport is cricket. So we tried to play some in a beautiful area outside the busy city.

There is trash everywhere and it seems to be linked with the mindset of people here. Their cleanliness stops at their home. Outside the home most people don' care and will throw their garbage wherever without even giving it a second thought. To see men urinating up against walls in public areas is also a common sight.


Urmul Trust Girls School

Celebrating Holi!

Indian brides are so beautiful! My host mom runs a beauty parlor so I get to see the brides getting ready.
My host brother, myself and my host sister before an Indian wedding.

Indian weddings are huge with thousands of people attending. You can see the bride and groom on the right. Arranged marriage is the most common form of marriage here.


Daily Hindi quizzes and homework.
On your birthday you get a cake and some of it smirred in your face. An Indian tradition which means the people around you give you lots of love and good blessings. 

Rickshaws is our main way of getting around in the city.



At a refugee camp in Jodhpur.

Indian train ride

Varanasi, oldest city in the world.

A typical street.
Ganga River

Ganga River

Sunrise at the Ganga River