Monday, September 21, 2015

The Musical Garbage Truck That Talks to You

Hola! It’s me again only this time I am studying not in Athens, Greece the home of my ancestors, I am studying in the country of the volcanoes.
Volcanoes everywhere! 

Maybe that isn’t the official slogan of the country, but when every single day all you hear about is Cotopaxi (for those of you that do not know it is an active volcano in the south of Quito that is due to erupt at any time) and a president that isn’t allowing for information to be let out about said volcano then you begin to associate the country with volcanoes.

Currently I am sitting in my host families house looking out of my giant window at the first real rain shower I have experienced since arriving to Ecuador. The power is out so I am struggling to see with the dim wet grey light that is peaking in from outside. September the 22nd marks one month that I have lived in Quito and I find myself reminiscing on how much has changed since I have arrived to the beautiful country that boasts the catchphrase Ama la Vida.
Just one example of the humming birds

One month ago I was frantically throwing clothes into two suitcases and saying my goodbyes to everyone in Rapid City because the night before I had flown in from an internship in New York. Less than twenty-four hours to pack for four months use to seem impossible, but now I can say that it absolutely is not. However, life is about the adventure. When I boarded my plane in Rapid City, SD I had no idea what to expect when I stepped out of customs in Quito, Ecuador. Looking back I could have prepared myself more, but having no preconceived ideas of what to expect has honestly been the best strategy to enjoying every moment since I have been here. So now I will tell you about my experience since arriving to my second study abroad location.
View of the Old Town Quito

Ecuador is a country unlike any other country in the world. 
From the Andes filled with colorfully dressed indigenous people, to the jungle bursting with more species of humming birds than anywhere else in the world, the beautiful beaches separating the land from the sea, and the volcanoes that are always threatening to erupt there are too many activities to do to ever say that one is bored. One doesn’t even have to leave the bustling crowded city of Quito to find differing cultural experiences. From the old town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site to Quicentro which is the shiny and modern new shopping mall in the center of Quito there is always something new to discover.
View of the River I bungee jumped over

Having traveled to two cities Otavalo and Baños I feel as if there are too many great places in this country to visit that choosing only a few is going to be incredibly difficult. Along with the beautiful scenery are the passionate Ecuadorians that I have met, Ecuadorians much like the Greeks are very focused on family. My host mother immediately took me under her wing and introduced me to the intricacies of life in Quito. However, having to speak Spanish every day is physically draining. I find myself coming home every day from university exhausted both physically and emotionally. Life in Quito is hard, it takes twice the effort to accomplish anything and it’s hard to try and blend in when you are clearly a grienga that is taller than almost everyone. 
Bungee jumping

Having lived in Greece is helping a lot with realizing culture shock and with adapting to another country that functions completely different that the United States. I am also learning a lot about myself since living in Ecuador. First, I should never go into boats or anything floating on water that isn’t a surfboard. Second, I enjoy dancing salsa more than anyone who has never done it before should. Third, Reggaeton is the greatest music to dance to and anyone that tries to argue hasn’t lived. Fourth, planning a vacation within Ecuador is too much work, going with the flow is so much easier. Fifth, the friends you make while studying abroad become your entire life while in the country. Finally, trying to befriend Ecuadorians becomes really hard when you don’t speak fluent sarcasm in Spanish.

Also in case you were wondering about the title, the garbage trucks in small towns play music while picking up garbage and tell you to get out of the way!
Travel with people that are as photogenic as you

I think that is enough with my experience in Ecuador thus far! I hope you enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for my next blog!
Cascada del Pailon del Diablo

View of one of the main squares in Quito

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bond University

          Bond University is a very nice and private campus. It is not far away from my house. I just need to take bus 750 and it took me around 7 minutes to arrive to Bond University.
            I love Bond because it is very unique and diversity. You can meet people all around the world come here to exchange. Mostly they are come from Japan and China. The classroom is very small; it is around 10 to 15 people per class. I think it is easier for the professor get to know each student. Bond University is very different to our Hawaii Pacific University because their courses divide into lecture section and tutorial section. For the lecture, it is only one a week and it lengths for 2 hours. Tutorial is one a week, too but it is only for 1 hour. 

            The students here are very friendly, they help you when you need and show you the way when you get lost. The professors are super nice, they always help you with your assignment and clearly explained things you need to do for your essay. Whenever you don’t understand, just raise your hand and ask, they will stop the lecture and explain to you again. When I’m at Bond, I always feel confident, secure and comfortable.
            For the student clubs, my favorite one is BUSA, which stands for Bond University Student Association. BUSA organizes a lot of fun activities for students like free BBQ every Wednesday by the pool, so student can enjoy their BBQ, listen to music and swim in the water. BUSA also helps students with the transportations like selling second hand bike to us. I luckily get one on Friday for just $40.  
            Moreover, at Bond, they also have a big gym center, so students can come here and exercise. They also provide free yoga, aerobics, and boxing classes for student everyday. It is kind of cool and flexible because students can come whenever they want to. Gym Center is my favorite place because whenever I have stress in studying, I come here to relax.
            Besides that, Library at Bond is very useful. You can find a lot of resources relate to your course here. The library also opens 24 hours a day so it is very easy for students who want to come here and studying. At Bond, students have to put money into the ID card in order to print or copy. It is very different than our school in Hawaii.

Life in Australia

                             Things you should remember when you go to Australia....
            Before I went to Australia, nobody told me that I needed to bring the adapter. I thought Australian adapter is the same like American, but the truth is it was not. Australian adapter is different, as you can see in the photo.

                                                                    1. Australian adapter.
            So before you depart, DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR ADAPTOR or you can’t charge your phone or laptop when you arrive. Moreover, if you forget, you can buy one in JB HI-FI, Dick Smith, or any electricity store in Robina Shopping Centre or Pacific Fair in Gold Coast.
            For cell phone plan, Australia has a lot of mobile plan like Telstra, Vodafone or Optus, but I choose AMALAYSIM - website:, which is not popular brand. I choose to buy the sim card at AMALAYSIM because it is the cheapest plan for mobile in Australia.  
            For example:
·      $30 prepaid in Vodafone, they only give you 1.5 GB Internet, its only last for 28 days and they do not give you any credit to call international.
·      $30 prepaid in AMALAYSIM, they give you 2 GB Internet, the plan lasts for 30 days, give you some amount to call international, text and call unlimited.
            You can order the sim online and choose the number that you like on their website. After that, they will deliver to your home address within 3-5 days. If not, you can buy the sim in Seven- Elven Store and it costs $2. After that, you have to pay and choose the plan that you want, but the important thing is that you cannot choose the number.
            I prefer to go on their website and buy the sim and plan because you can save $2 and you can choose your favorite phone number, too. Sometimes, they have a promotion, which is, they will discount 50% for first month.
            For transportation, Australia transportation is much more expensive than Hawaii. They don’t give student UPASS like our Hawaii. Even if they still have student bus pass but it is still very expensive. For the bus pass, you can buy it in Seven- Eleven Store or in your school bookstore. I refer to buy it in Seven-Eleven Store because you can use your credit card.
            In Australia, the bus pass calls GO CARD. You can use it for bus, tram, or ferry. The different here is that, you have to put money into the card. For students, the GO CARD is green and it cost $5. You have to put money into it in order to use the services. Whenever you go on the bus, you have to touch on and touch off when you get off the bus. You touch on when you get on to see the amount of money you have on the GO CARD. You touch off to see how much the fare costs you and how much you have left. It is very expensive because the first week of school costs me about $30 AUD for the bus. 

                                                              2. Go Card for College Students
            One thing you should remember when you use the tram is that: Even if when you get one the tram, nobody check your Go Card, but they still have a machine outside of the tram, you have to touch on before you go on the tram because sometimes, the operators may come and check your card surprisingly. If they did not see it through their devices, you will have to pay the fine, which is $250.
            So whenever you use the public transportation, please CHECK ON and CHECK OFF.
            About supermarket, Australia has 3 biggest supermarkets, that is: Coles, Woolworth, and Aldi. I think Aldi is the cheapest supermarket because they always have a lot of items on sale, but sometimes, you cannot find anything you need in Aldi. When you go to Aldi, do not forget to bring your own bag because Aldi does not give us free plastic bag. If you want one, it may cost you $0.05 cents.
            I think food in Australia is very cheap. Milk, bread and meat is cheaper than Hawaii. Fruits and seafood are kind of expensive.

Gold Coast, Australia

         To me, going to different places to learn things is my hobby because I want to explore the world while I can. I choose Australia to be my next destination because I love their culture and their people. Besides that, I really want to meet the kangaroos and koalas in person so that is why Australia is my must go country. Thanks to HPU because they have made my dream came true.     
            First, going to Australia was not easy as I thought because I had to do a lot of application to obtain a student visa. Australian visa is much more expensive than American visa; it costs me $500 USD for 8 months. Moreover, I had to go the hospital for health check up because it is a must for student applicants if they want to have a visa. After 1 month waiting, I finally received my student visa.
            For housing, I chose AHN, which stands for Australia Homestay Network. I decided to live with host family for 1 month because it was my first time in Australia. Living with host family would give you a lot of advantages: they will show you around to know places, teach you the easiest way to go to school, tell you where to buy the cheapest groceries. Even if living with them would be expensive, but you could move out after 1 month when you were familiar with everything. Living with host family is the best idea for students, who came to the new country for the 1st time in their life.
            For the airline, I chose Air Asia Airline because it was the cheapest airline to go to Australia. It took me 15 hours to fly from Viet Nam to Gold Coast with one transit for 2 hours in Kula Lumpur in Malaysia.
            When I arrived to Gold Coast, the AHN’s representative has waited outside to pick me up and took me to my homestay family. It was very nice to have somebody waited for you and told you a little bit about the city where you will stay for 8 months. 
            About my host family, she was a very nice lady. She lived by herself because her children all have been growing up. My house had two more students from Japan and China, they went here to study English. They would be my housemates for 2 weeks. 
          My first day in Australia was very great, I will tell you more about Australia in the upcoming days.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


(At the National Taiwan University's Famous Front Gate)

My first week here at Taiwan had been an eye opener! Not only did I realize the limitations of my Mandarin Chinese, I found Taiwan to be quite different from what I am use to in Hawaii. Taiwan is a bustling city filled with food and culture. Having been to mainland China before, I realize many differences in Taipei (Taiwan’s capital). People here seem to be more honest and less rowdy from what I have experienced growing up as an American Chinese going to mainland China with my Chinese-born parents. From what I am told by a Taiwanese helper, the crime rate is low here. AND THAT IS NOT THE ONLY THING LOW here.... FOOD is inexpensive!! One can easily spend less than $20 US dollars for three full decent meals a day here. 

 (At the famous Shilin night market with some friends from America and the Netherlands)

(Some signature Taiwan beer with some Oyster egg pancakes, toppled with some Stinky Tofu

(Oh yes...Taiwan's Stinky Tofu... It's not so bad as people say! It's actually quite yummy!!)

No trip is complete without visiting the famous xiaolongbao (dumplings) place!

At the Famous Taipei 101!!!!
Taipei 101 at night. A brilliant architectural masterpiece incorporating Asian and modern elements

On Top of Taipei 101. 

School starts soon.... I got to improve my Mandarin!
In front of the old NTU library 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Carpe Diem

August 30th, 2015
We both, Amber Hannah and I were anxiously awaiting to board the small aircraft to Morocco where we would finally seize the day, or well the semester in our case!!! We were both gleaming with nervousness and a tad bit of  sleep deprivation. I removed the extra sleep from  the corners of my eyes, and began to sip on my coffee sitting in a small cafe in the Paris Charlles de Gaulle airport. Macaroons in hand since we were of course in Paris. I was surprised by the next words coming from within Amber Hannah's mouth when i had shown her that white pastry bag . "I have never had a macaroon before",,,she uttered ever so slightly and meekly as to refrain herself from embarrassment or so it seemed to me. I did burst out however, which she was probably convinced i would. " What" i  had exclaimed "well then today is the day", as i showed her the white bag containing four macaroons. "two for you and two for me" i said,,, "any two you would like to have are yours." She bit into the sugary treat and was quite surprised my the texture and taste of the raspberry macaroon. she didn't expect the macaroon to have a cake like texture she  said. Within seven minutes the delicious macaroons would be finished even though we tried really hard to savior those incredible handcrafted pastries, they inevitably were disappeared within sight, and that would begin the start to our new adventure abroad, we were beginning to embark on.

W finally arrived Yayy!!!  Spent months in advance planning everything and now we are finally here...i only have one thing to say....Cheee Hoooo!!!!:D

September 1st-4th
Some memories i have made thus far: I have tried some street pizza for 1.5$, had some incredible mint tea, tried to learn french by staring at  lady and hoping i would understand her! Went to a hamom, drove with a Moroccan women....i almost died phew i was scared:D Try new amazing cuisines, met new friends, and most of all i am learning Darija, brushing up on my Spanish and have English under my belt...i say three languages are good....however the Moroccans have me beat...most of them speak at least four languages...its very impressive!  .

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