Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting ready for an adventure of a lifetime:D

Hi Everyone,
My name is Carina Lara and i will be studying abroad in Rabat, Morocco! My focus will be in the field of  Migration and transnational identities within Morocco's  highly diverse area. With this said I look forward to living in Morocco for a semester and making memories that will last a  lifetime!
My video: Shows my excitement when i  had finally found the perfect walking shoes to travel to Morocco in:D
 I searched and searched  for the perfect walking shoes...I tried them all....Chacos: couldn't understand how to get them to fit me well, Tevas....great but too expensive... then i had come across a pair of...Dr. Scholls cushioned sandals...and my feet immediately  were in heaven! Oh and guess what... they were on sale...yayyy!!!Now with my perfect walking shoes that just happen to be great for all types of Terrain whoop whoop!!!!I know  for certain i am ready to walk, climb, and jump all over Morocco:D

I fly tomorrow to Morocco and thought this song was perfect!
On the Road to Morocco: Bing Crosby

Monday, August 24, 2015

What's Most Important in Life: Food and Barbells

I'll make general post later, but for now, I'd like to talk about how to make all kinds of gains (gainzZz) in a country that's so opposed to it. If you're a foodie, you'll at least enjoy the pictures. If you're into barbell weightlifting and are fine with gaining weight, I think you'll enjoy it even more.

Squat Racks: They Do Exist!

Barbell weightlifting is even more niche in South Korea than it is in the U.S. partly people here prioritize being skinny and losing weight over becoming stronger. It makes me feel left out over here. You'll typically find one squat rack in the entire gym, and it may or may not have adjustable bar holders/catches. The fortunate thing is that because Korean don't often use barbells, that one squat isn't often in use. If you're a foreigner, they won't often talk to you, but you'll see them admiring ('mirin) the gains!

So what do you do after you're tired from a hard workout, and the employee is pissed off at you because a 185 kg deadlift is going to make noise no matter how slowly you put it down? Naturally, you stuff your face!

There are variations of bibimbap (비빔밥) and they range from around 4500-6000 won. If you eat at a restaurant, you'll get free sides (반찬) so be sure to abuse that. Well, maybe not at amusement park. They just want to rip you off there. If the restaurant has a version of bibimbap (such as bulbaekbibim: 불백비빔) that has extra meat on it, naturally go for that.

Korean BBQ is a favorite of mine, and it's easy macros if you get a buffet! Even the people who normally don't like to take pictures of food end up doing so when there's a big group and tons of BBQ cooking at the same time. If you don't eat meat, well...I'm sorry...

If you want some diabetes, there are dessert calzones that they make in the foreigner district of Itaewon (이태원). Honey toast and bingsu (빙수) are more common, though.

Actually, this post was delayed for a long time. I thought about finishing it earlier, but I suddenly became busy towards the end of my program. There are so many foods that I want to upload and share, but I don't really have much time to go through all of the pictures I took. At any rate, I hope this was at least pleasing for your eyes!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Strays of Istanbul

I admit that I didn't know what to expect when I went to Turkey. I had few concrete expectations, but the one thing that struck me immediately as we travelled through the city was the remarkable amount of stray cats and dogs wandering around the streets. On Maui, strays are common enough but I'd never seen them so prevalent in a city before.

In Istanbul, strays are everywhere. Whether it was the backstreets of Fener or the crowded walkways of Sultanahmet, there were huge dogs sleeping in the grass or on the cement (usually in the middle of the walkway) or wandering around in small packs begging for food. There were whole colonies of street cats picking through garbage or waiting outside of restaurants. They must eat well as most of the strays were fat and bowls of food and fresh water were laid out for them everywhere. (A Turkish woman told me that it would be a great shame to see a starving dog right outside a thriving restaurant.)

Perhaps most amazing, though, was how tame they were. I never saw any of the huge mutts growl or even bark at anyone or anything. They were lazy things for the most part, spending the majority of their time sleeping or leisurely marking their territory. When they wanted food, they'd follow you around and stare at you innocently with their big brown eyes. When we were touring one of the Prince's Islands, three dogs followed us through our entire walking tour, bullying cats out of our path as we went. (We named the leader of the pack Ismet after Prime Minister Ismet Inonu, whose house we were viewing on the island.) But I never felt endangered by them. The dogs all have tags, which signal that they've been spayed/neutered and given all their shots by animal control. The population is, from a logistical standpoint, under control.

The cats, on the other hand, are much harder for the authorities to keep track of. Litters of tiny kittens were everywhere, living in cardboard boxes and on first-story balconies, picking through trash and falling asleep on street vendors' pashminas. (I never saw a Turkish shopkeeper kick them out though; I even saw one particularly fluffy tabby completely claim ownership over a valuable Baroque-style armchair in an antique shop.) There was a sleek, white and muscular cat that picked through the garbage at the dorm that I called Scar after the huge, pink and scabby slash across his back and the smaller one across his face. There was also a particularly friendly calico called Elif, who loved hanging out in the dorm's lobby and keeping the security guards company. (She even tried to follow students into the elevator. "Wait for me, guys!") Then there was Elif's son, Julio, who was a sweet kitten with green eyes that the guards utterly spoiled with Turkish deli meat and shredded chicken. (They even took him to the vet when he got sick.) On the way to school, I always passed a black cat who took up residence beside the door of a restaurant called "The Fish and the Kebab." I named him Balik, after the Turkish word for "fish" and he would always try to play with me when I passed by.

All these strays were definitely not at all what I would have expected to find in Istanbul, but they've made the city feel a lot more like home.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thanks for the Memories Greece

As I sit on a red bench along the river in yet another unknown city where the language spoken around me is as unique as the people I am forced to think back on my study abroad experience. 
View of part of Athens from Mt. Lycabettus
I landed in Reykjavik, Iceland on the second of January and I head back to this same city on my last trip of studying abroad.When I first landed in Reykjavik for a short two hours it was stuck in nearly twenty-four hours of continuous darkness and now as I spend two nights there I will be blessed with twenty-three hours of sunlight.
Home of the first Parliament in Iceland
 I cannot say that these five months changed my entire life, but I can say it changed a portion of my life. Studying abroad has taught me how to live without a cellphone, how to communicate with others that don't speak English, to adapt to constantly changing surroundings, to live out of a back pack for weeks at a time, and that no matter what country you are in a smile can change your day. 
Picture from Meteora Greece
View of Prague

The weather is not always perfect, the plans always change, and people run out of money that's what studying abroad is. 
Taken from the Cinque Terre Hike Italy
It is adapting to the unknown, becoming use to traveling alone and becoming an expert at interpreting train schedules. You leave a part of yourself in every city you visit because it takes something out of you. Traveling is expensive and exhausting but if we don't do it today there won't be time tomorrow. 
View of Rome from above
If you don't see Meteora while you are in Greece
Meteora Greece
or the leaning Tower of Pisa while in Italy when will you ever get another chance?
Pisa Italy
 Studying abroad gives us a break from the monotonous classrooms we will spend more time than we hope to in and throws us out into the world we don't have nearly enough time in.
Enjoying Baklava in Athens
Some of the AIFS students at the Temple of Poseidon

Every city is different, every language has its impact, and every mile traveled another memory. Since I have been in Europe I haven't traveled to a new country every weekend, but I got to know a few very well. Greece has everything from the mountains with monasteries to islands with donkeys and the people are as hopeful in their future as they are proud of their past, 

Donkeys on the island of Hydra Greece

Italy has beaches surround by famous hiking trails, 
Florence Italy

everyone needs to visit Germany to see why Bavaria should be its own kingdom again, 
Fathers day in Munich 
Munich again

Prague has an active night life and free city tour which everyone should take advantage of,

Hohenwerfen Castle Austria

Austria has some of the nicest people you will ever meet and breath taking views,
More Austria

Spain is more than sangria and live dancing, and finally Iceland well Iceland is my last stop before I head back to the mainland so it will be the hardest to say goodbye to. 
One of many waterfalls in Iceland

My heart breaks that I have to leave Europe behind for a summer of working in my home town, but I don't leave empty handed. I met some of the most flamboyant and unpredictable people while abroad, I've made new life long friends, and reconnected with old friends.  I've watched the sunset from cities I only dreamed I would see and traveled on airlines I didn't know existed. 

Cinque Terre Italy

Sunset over Athens

But the most important thing that I am taking home with me is the memories. There are too many to comb through now, but I know they will always be there in the back of my mind lurking to make their appearance when I need it most. At the end of the day souvenirs take up space, pictures go missing, and the wine you brought back gets enthusiastically drank up, but no one can take your memories because those are there for you to keep the best five months of your life alive. We can't live in the past we have to keep moving forward, but your past is what makes you who you are today and maybe someday sitting on the park bench in Passau, Germany will be the memory you need to get your through another hard patch. So may we all become friends with people who speak different languages and not roll our eyes when a friend returning home from a semester abroad starts another sentence with "while I was abroad."
Saying goodbye to Greece with the Acropolis in the background
Until we meet again Europe.

Friday, May 22, 2015

"How was India?" The impossible question

It has been one week since our semester ended in India. It was very emotional the few days leading up to the last day and many tears were shed the final day when we all gathered in a circle filled with love and gratitude.

The question that I've gotten the most after this semester (and that I foresee myself having to answer many times in the future) is, "how was India?" And every time I am silenced wondering what to say. We spent 3 and a half months in a country that is as different as you can get it and I am faced with the impossible task of summarizing such a time. How?

Do I bring up the incredible things we learned in and outside the classroom? Do I talk about how amazing the food and chay(tea) is? Or how seeing Taj Mahal left me in awe and the ghats by the Ganga River made me reflect on life and death? Do I bring up that there are tons of people doing incredible work everyday, like the teacher I met at Kiran center, a school for differently abled children. A single teacher who has children with hearing disabilities, mental disability, physical disability and children with no disabilities- all in one class! Do I describe all the ironies of this country, like the fact that Indian's invented the world's first flush toilet 5000 years ago but that today 53% if India's population defecates in the open? Or how dirty some places are and the amounts of trash there is in the streets? Or how I learned about waste and now can't buy things without realizing the amount of trash I am contributing to? Do I describe how open and hospitable the people I met along the journey were and how I am thankful to each person? Do I talk about how my fellow students and the staff of this SIT program are the most incredible people and how we all learned from each other? Can I bring up that I loved this place but felt great sadness as well? 

And these things aren't nearly enough to explain, "how was India?" In trying to describe my time it is impossible to not give the wrong impression or paint a picture that is not true to the real India. There is so much more to this place then can be put into words and I find that trying to explain it, I loose some of it for what it really is in my mind, my heart and soul.

To India I would like to say: you have taught me so many things, but most of all, thank you for opening my eyes, mind and heart. Thank you for showing me how much love there is in the world and how the world needs more awake human beings.

People used to take from nature what they needed and knew to give it back. Today we live in a consumer world where we don't even think twice about giving back to nature all that she has provided for us.

I think it is about time we wake up from our little bubble and give back.

May I each and everyday through mindful actions show that I care for Mother Earth. Even though I won't be able to give back all that I have used in my lifetime, hopefully I can give back as much as possible.

From the deepest of my being,

thank you to everyone and everything that was part of this journey.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Córdoba, Spain

My second major day trip was to Córdoba, another city in Andalusia about two hours from Sevilla. This city is famous for the Mezquita (mosque) which was transformed into a Catholic cathedral on the inside. As in many of the southern Spanish towns, the outside of the building has a tall bell tower which was originally used for calling prayers but has since been given a more Renaissance-style top and bells during the change to Catholicism.

The inside of the building is what is truly shocking. Rows and rows of arches stretch the whole length of the building with columns like trees in a forest. The moors were very intelligent architects, having built the arches with alternating sections of brick (red) and limestone (white) as seen in the photo here. The difference in stability/malleability of these two types of building materials allowed the arches to compress and decompress under stress from earthquakes which can sometimes be very common in Spain. In a newer section of the mosque, some arches were built very quickly using only one kind of stone, and it is clear that this method does not stand the test of time as effectively. There were cracks everywhere from earthquakes.

The most interesting thing about this building, however, is that the Catholic cathedral section was built directly in the CENTER of the original mosque. Instead of just leveling the whole structure and building one grand cathedral, the Catholics stuck their new architecture right in the middle. It was really disorienting to see the brightly colored arches of the Moorish-style mosque melding with the bright white Renaissance-style vaulted ceilings of a grand cathedral (see the photo.) The abrupt change in style was like walking from southern Spain into Renaissance Italy in a matter of seconds.  

The streets of Córdoba had the familiar and comforting narrowness and white-painted buildings I had seen throughout southern Spain. One of the more famous streets, called Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers) had a beautiful view of the cathedral's bell tower at the end.
Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers)


In the spring, Córdoba is known for having patio contests where all of the courtyards of houses sport overflowing flower pots of spring blooms. When I visited, these pots were just starting to put out colorful flowers. I can only imagine how beautiful everything would have looked a few weeks after I visited.

the beginning of flower growth for the spring Patio Contests

 The Guadalquivir river also extends through Córdoba (the same river which has a canal running through the heart of Sevilla) and there is an impressive stone bridge which stretches across it just behind the cathedral/mosque.
Bridge crossing the Guadalquivir River with a view of the cathedral/mosque in the background

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Granada, Spain


  My travel program, GlobalEd, organizes a few weekend trips for its students - the first one I attended was to Granada, a town in Andalusia about 2 hours away from Sevilla (where I have been living.) Granada is known as the city of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain because it is the burial sight of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella who are famous for uniting the kingdom of Spain with their marriage but also infamous for their religious zealousness and the Spanish Inquisition.

Day 1
     Our amazing tour guide, Alejandro, took us to see the tomb of Ferdinand and Isabella inside the Royal Chapel of Granada. The tomb was carved by an Italian sculptor, as they were typically known to have the best work at the time. However, another tomb next to this one was carved by a Spaniard who had studied alongside Michelangelo so (as pointed out by our guide) it actually turned out to be the one of higher quality. We next saw the Granada Cathedral which is Renaissance style (very different from the Gothic style in Sevilla.) The altar piece, however, is Baroque, with dark golds contrasting the light whites/grays of the otherwise Renaissance space.
Cathedral of Granada (interior)

Day 2
     We visited what has been claimed as one of the new wonders of the world: the Catholic monarchs' palace, “La Alhambra.” It is MASSIVE, complete with gardens and a separate vacation house all tucked away on top of one of the hills surrounding the city. The main parts of the palace were created by the moors during their control of the city, so Arabic inscriptions can be seen along almost every wall. It was surprising to see that even in the rooms where it is known Ferdinand and Isabella would pray, there were inscriptions on the walls claiming Muhammad as the one true prophet. I find it amazing that they had enough respect for the original culture to leave everything as was - it’s absolutely beautiful.From the top of one of the palace towers, we could see the whole city, the cathedral, and also in the distance the Sierra Nevada mountain range - the tallest mountain range in continental Spain.
Later that day I tried middle eastern food for the first time (falafel and couscous get an A+) and went to an arab teahouse.
La Alhambra (the palace)
inside La Alhmabra (the palace)
Day 3
We began the day with a tour of the Albaicín, a neighborhood in the hills from which you can see the palace. The deeper into the neighborhood you go, the more it is considered “gypsy territory” and it is possible to find informal flamenco shows. We walked around looking at many of the small churches, and one mosque. We also stopped at a nunnery in which the nuns are not allowed to leave. They bake pastries and breads for the public and we bought some magdalenas from them (sweet muffins) which were extremely good.

 One thing I noticed in Granada is that there are images of pomegranates everywhere because of the meaning of the city's name! On the manhole covers in the street, on pillars lining the sidewalks, hidden in keystones above doorways, they're EVERYWHERE. 

view of El Albaicín (neighborhood) from La Alhambra (the palace)
El Albaicín (neighborhood)