Friday, July 28, 2017

BRASIL week 1

I've only been in Brasil for a week an already feel at home. I was very lucky and found a great apartment on Facebook in the center of Rio de Janeiro, shared with 13 people all with our own bedroom. We have a house cat called Farofa (named after a Brasilian food) who is very lazy and always sneaking into my room. My room has a balcony, and is huge with a walk-in closet.; but I pay the same to stay here as I do in Hawaii to share a small room. My housemates are amazing people: one Brazilian girl who I love-- she is teaching me so much portuguese, 5 French girls, one Belgium, one half Chilean and half Senegalese who speaks basically every language you can think of, an Italian, one Spanish guy from Spain, and the rest are not here yet. It is great to live with so many people since they are all students (going to different universities though) and you never feel alone around the house- there is always someone there to help you.

On my first day here, some of my housemates came to get me from the airport, and I haven't had a break ever since. They are constantly going places and having fun. I have visited Brasil before, but it was so much different to my life here now, since I am living in a completely different area and am not visiting someone but instead doing everything alone (but not exactly alone since I have so many people in the house helping me out). The area is also more expensive than I expected since it is similar to Waikiki in terms of tourism.

In just one week, I have already been to a favela (slum) twice, hiked twice, and sorted out everything for school and with the government here. The process that international students have to go through with the government is actually really stressful. We have to go to the airport to register with the Federal Police, and bring many things that are difficult to get here (Brasil is not a very organised country, and we spent 2 hours in the bank just waiting to pay a fee to bring to the Federal Police). Any task that would be simple in the USA is such a nightmare here. For example, just trying to get a phone is impossible: you have to go to the post office to pay for a CPF number, then bring the receipt to an office in another city to get the actual number, then go to another office to get a card with the CPF number on. After that, you have to buy a sim card and call a number, and type in your CPF. I have had my CPF for 4 days now and still am not able to get my sim card working. Money is another problem... my cards won't work anywhere, and I always have to pay with money which is dangerous since crime is so high here and I don't want to be carrying a lot of money.

All the positives outweigh the negatives though, and there's monkeys everywhere!!! I am just waiting for school to start....




Monday, July 10, 2017

Friends in All Parts of the World

I think that one of the BEST parts about studying abroad and traveling in general is the relationships you make along the way. I know that a lot of people prefer solo traveling or are more introverted but in my personal opinion, the best thing you can do for yourself is force yourself out of your comfort zone and encourage yourself to start random conversations, ask strangers for advice, socialize in bars, and just build relationships in general.

During my entire study abroad/traveling experience I chose to use couch surfing.com when it came to accommodation. This is a website that involves searching for people who live in the local area and applying to stay with them in their home for a certain amount of days. The hosts have reviews on their profile from other people who have stayed with them so that you can read them and see what other peoples experiences were like with them. Disclaimer: the accommodation is never anything fancy. Sometimes it's a bed, but most of the time it's a couch, cot, or blow up mattress on the floor. But honestly, what do you expect, its free! The greatest part about this website is that the people you stay with are all locals and know the area WELL. In almost all situations, the hosts are extremely social and are just looking for friends to hangout with, share travel stories with, and show around their hometown. It was through this website that I met some of the coolest people ever, and built some friendships that will last me a lifetime. I feel like I have second homes scattered across the world and I've learned so many life lessons from the people who have hosted me. Of course, staying with a stranger can see uncomfortable or awkward but my advice to you is to just try it! These people have hosted tons of travelers and there is a reason they open their homes up for free: after all they're not running free hotels for the sake of it, they want to share experiences with people and get something out of it as well!

If couch surfing.com doesn't sound like your forte, then another cool option is staying in hostels! Hostels are such social environments and are the perfect opportunity to meet other people and maybe explore another place with others who have the same intentions. I guarantee you that almost anyone staying in a hostel would be more than willing to partake in a conversation with you or hangout so again with the advice: don't just stay in your room and communicate with no one! You never know the kind of relationships you can make and it's honestly one of the most fun parts about traveling!

Basically, I'm writing this article to voice to others that if I had not forced myself out of my comfort zone when it came to socializing with others, my travel experiences would have been completely different. I still talk to some of the people that I have met on a daily basis and I'm currently planning on visiting some of them in different countries in the near future. The amount of crazy stories I have and the amount of opportunities that were opened up to me by being friendly were insane. Heck, I was lucky enough to ship champagne on a million dollar yacht parked in the most beautiful cove in all of Mallorca just because I opened up conversation with someone on a beach.

I hear about people traveling alone all the time and when I ask them "Did you meet friends along the way?" I commonly hear the response "No, I just stayed by myself." No matter how shy you are, experiences are always better when shared with others and meeting friends from all over the world is probably the coolest thing ever. Looking back now, I am more than grateful for abandoning my shame and forcing myself to throw myself out there to create relationships. So, once again, with advice straight from experience, I encourage you to get out there, open conversations, interact with strangers (keeping stranger danger in mind of course), be friendly, and create relationships all over the world!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Thai life high life

Hello everyone,

I went to Thailand for three weeks with my classmates and Dr. Primm as  INTR3933 summer class. We went there in the beginning of May, and basically we learned a lot of Thai cultures, and differences between Thai and America through this trip. I had never been to Thailand before and I love Thai food, so I was so excited to go there and try a lot of real Thai food in Thailand.

Our schedule was like this:

May 10th - arrive at Thailand
May 11th to 13th - Kanchanaburi
May 13th to 15th - Krabi
May 15th to 26th - Chiang Rai
May 26th to 31st - Bangkok
May 31st - leave Thailand


My favorite place was Krabi. Krabi is close to Phuket, and the color of ocean is just amazing. Way better than Hawaii... I had never seen such beautiful turquoise green ocean before...

Anyway I am going to show several memorable things through this trip with tons of pictures.




Yesss, look at the beautiful color of the ocean!!! I fell in love with the place instantly. 
I took those pictures at a beautiful island called Phi Phi island in Krabi, and there are a lot of monkeys living on the islands. We could see a boat crew fed watermelons to monkeys.

Seafood was amazing in Krabi, and we had a gorgeous dinner at a seaside restaurant. But I forgot to take pictures because I was busy with enjoying delicious meals...





The place where we went on train from Bangkok was Kanchanaburi. Kanchanaburi is one of the historically famous places in Thailand, and it is known for the place where there is the Death Railway. Death railway is built during WWII, and Japanese soldiers forced Thai people and soldiers from several countries to build railway under cruel circumstance. A lot of people died because of cruel working condition.We also visited JEATH war museum and Hellfire Pass museum.


 We took a flight to Chiang Rai which is in Northern part of Thailand. We stayed most of the times in Chiang Rai, and experienced a lot of cultural differences... such as staying a house made with bamboos and straws.

the house did not have electricity,


so, they made fire on fireplace inside of their house.


We saw a grandma smoking a corn leaf cigarette :D



Also, we taught English to local students at school for three days. It was difficult to prepare lesson plans because we did not know the levels of students, and we did not want them to get bored with what we teach. However, the students had very positive attitudes for learning English and it was very fun to teach English to them. 







We went a lot of historical sites and popular tourists' sites in Thailand such as White Temple and Golden Triangle. 


Weather was pretty bad when we were in Thailand, and it was one disappointing thing but we could not help with it. However, Thai food were amazing, people are friendly, everything is cheap, and I could not find any bad point of Thailand except water problem. You should not drink tap water, otherwise you will have a stomachache...


Anyway, I had an amazing experience in Thailand. I am so glad that I could go to this trip. If you have a chance to take INTR3933, I highly recommend to take the class. 




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Struggle

     Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel. Having an accent inspires me to speak. Sometimes your disadvantages are your most striking assets and having or knowing less than does not make you that. Being abroad means being different. Because no matter how much you practice, how many bus lines you know or how much black you wear, you will never be native. In my ever-educated opinion, I believe that people were never supposed to be bound to nationality or border. Heritage is sacred but this land was not born to be claimed. And as far as second-class standing, I will always prefer to be the dumbest kid in a challenging class then the smartest in one where effort is optional. So be the foreigner. Struggle through ordering a meal and look different than literally everyone on the street, because little by little insecurity will fade and your new favorite phrase will be, I'm not from here.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

So now you're an expat

3 ways to be less foreign, because as cool as it is to show off your English (which everyone now speaks), it's even cooler making friends outside of your language class.

1. Keep the ratio of new language to old language 70/30.
     - Ten percent will be all of your new expat buddies, ten will go to FaceTime and subsequent communication back home, and the last ten you will waste on keeping up with your totally disposable American media, fool. Seriously, if the scales start tipping the other way your language is going to suffer, and the better the language the less people will talk about you right in front of your face.

2. Say yes
    - Congrats, this three letter word just became your new best friend, and if you're on exchange you probably need one. It will give you experiences and stories and mistakes, and you will treasure them.

3. Own your country.
     - They are going to say the word Trump and laugh. The are going to bring up McDonald's and guns and 'Merica and laugh, as they should. You are foreign. You are foreign :) You are exciting and mysterious and can make obscure references to things they will never understand. Acknowledge the fact that you are but a little American fish in the sea of our star-spangled nation and are in no way responsible for the genocide/economic collapse/cardiovascular problems and or blissful ignorance that may or may not have been adopted by the vast majority of your native population. You come from somewhere with problems and vulnerabilities like every other citizen on this Earth, yours just happens to be somewhat of a headliner.

Despacito

     Exchange is tricky. Visas are frustrating, courses are stressful, and almost every expectation before coming will be far too high. What's important is to take everything day by day. There is time to discover and savor the city and the culture and the language, so pace yourself. Speeding through guidebooks and streamlining experiences is exhausting and takes away from that underlying passion of wanderlust.
     That being said, Netflix and FaceTime have never taken my breath away. So I say yes to almost everything, and sleep when I can. For me, studying abroad is not a limited experience with some international deadline. Moving away and changing almost every aspect about my life has always felt very comforting. I have studied in the U.S., Western Europe, on our beloved island, and currently in the Latin side of the Southern Hemisphere, and it is such a gift. After my year in Argentina, I'm planning on a Spanish-based internship and after that hopefully I'll start my grad in Capetown, or Roma, or Lisboa, or some other foreign land I've been daydreaming about, eventually making my way back to O'ahu.
    I'm putting out this timeline because before my first exchange everyone around me wanted babies and a picket fence. I have no particular disdain for either children or suburbia, but I remember what it was like to have my aspirations demeaned as a phase. Traveling costs money. It consists of twenty hour bus rides, grimy hostels, pathetic conversion rates, and a lot of loner sightseeing. But traveling for school and work and self is absolutely possible, not to mention cost is almost always determined by lifestyle (and general scrappiness). So for anyone who's doing this exchange for more than the fast-lane credit, keep doing it. And if you're looking for a backpack buddy, I'm probably somewhere below the equator.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Standing Alone, Together. Remembering June 6th.

Over the past week, I spent three days in Bayeux, a small French village near the famous beaches of Omaha and Utah. These were the two beaches the Americans used to land troops in June of 1944 against the Nazi Reich. After experiencing the rich and historic culture that Bayeux had to offer, I took a tour with a French local named Sofie. She took myself along with 7 other Americans to the most famous and significant battle sites in the region that pertained to Operation Overlord. Not only did we see the famous 'Bloody Omaha" where 2000 US soldiers lost their lives, we also followed the Band of Brothers-506th, Easy Company's footsteps along Brecourt Manor, Marmion's Farm, and Carentan. To experience such a vivid, yet violent history is not only a one in a life time experience, but truly affects how you see the image of war. For me, it meant that among violence, there is honor and among death there is sacrifice. I attended the 73rd Anniversary of the beach landings and will gladly return in the future. I will cut this post short however, because this experience meant so much to me, I put together a video of my experiences. For some who have already watched the 20 min excerpt, they have described it as "simply amazing," "difficult and emotional to watch," and a "beautiful tribute to those lost on that fateful day." To all who have a chance to watch it, please contemplate the meaning of bravery, honor, and sacrifice and what it means to live a place where we are free to live the lives we choose thanks to those who spilled blood across the sands of France and throughout Europe.

Here is the link:
Standing Alone, Together. Remembering June 6th.