Monday, December 27, 2010

Reflections on 2010

Current Location: New York, NY

Well, it's the end of 2010... and what a year it has been. I was watching the Google Zeitgeist 2010 video that goes through the year of events, and it was shocking to see how much has happened in such a short period of time. At the beginning of the year we had the earthquake in Haiti, and this year has contained of events like the World Cup in Africa, the Chilean miners, the Pakistan floods, the Gulf Oil spill, and most recently, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

However, looking back it's been quite a year of changes for me. I visited Chicago, Tennessee, and North Carolina. I took my passion of travel to a new level, visiting 4 new countries (Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belgium, and Ghana) and living for a month in France and Ghana. I learned to live without technology and how to survive in cultures unlike my own, where I barely knew the language. I completely changed my focus - before this year, I was certain I would go straight to graduate school, and I have decided to not apply and take at least a year off, if not longer. I've decided to attempt potentially one of the hardest things of my life, pursuing the Peace Corps where I would have to live in a poverty stricken nation for several year, without reliable internet or phone service, my friends or family, or knowing the local language fluently (to begin with, at least). I don't know if I have ever felt so excited about something - I think I am already annoying my friends and family with "Peace Corps this" and "Peace Corps that," and I haven't even received an invitation!

I've gotten closer to some friends, drifted apart from others - I guess that's just part of growing up. I've gone over 6 months without purchasing a pair of shoes (yes, that is a major change!). I've also really separated myself from my home. Gainesville still hold a special place in my heart, but in 2010, I think I spent maybe 15 days there, if not less. It's weird not going home, but I also feel like I am growing up and moving on. The Jenni that lived in Gainesville is nothing like the person I am now - people that knew me back then often can't understand my desires to travel and help others. The reactions I got from people when I explained I used a latrine and took bucket showers for a month in Ghana were hysterical. I can only imagine the looks I'll get when I tell people about my plan to live like that for 2 years!

I've improved my grades. I really buckled down this year in my academics, making the Deans List for the first time in the Spring (though the Fall semester is still somewhat in the air...). I've decided to not necessarily do what I "should" do but instead what I want to do. I decided to drop my minor with one class to go and instead start Spanish again. It's time I do what I want to rather than do what I should.

I can't think of a more appropriate way to start 2011 than to hop on a plane on January 1st and head to Chile for two weeks. It will represent how much I expect my life to change over the coming months. I'll be heading to New Orleans in January and Nicaragua in March. I'll be a college graduate in May. Possibly take a trip with family or friends in June or July (anyone interested in planning something?). And if all goes to plan, I'll be packing my bags in August or September for the unknown! My life has never been more unsure than it has been at this moment, yet I have never been more certain that this is what I need to do.

I thank all my family and friends that have been so supportive of me. I am so lucky to have you in my life! May 2011 bring great things for us all!!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The End of the Semester

Current Location: New York, NY

I know, once again I fail at updating. This past month has been a whirlwind of work - lab reports, group project, problem sets galore. I always thought my senior year would be a time for relaxing and partying, but no such luck.

Exciting thing in the past month? Well first of all, I had a fabulous Thanksgiving. I actually have two different thanksgivings with two separate and extremely important groups of people with me, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. My first thanksgiving was with the girls - Lucy and Laura, along with myself prepared a FABULOUS vegetarian Thanksgiving feast! Anyone who says you can't have thanksgiving without turkey most certainly has not had our thanksgiving food! I made my mom's bourbon sweet potatoes, because it most definitely is not thanksgiving without them. Laura made some delicious mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, and the two of us helped out with the rest of the feast Lucy had planned out - mushroom red wine gravy, the most amazing stuffing EVER, a rice and cheese loaf, and brie and cranberry sauce mini quiche things. I think there was even more - I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! After stuffing ourselves, it was time for the obligatory thanksgiving nap before I headed downtown to Dana and Nate's for Thanksgiving part two. Down there I got to eat mac and cheese (the best recipe ever, both Dana and I make it, though I made it first hehehehe) green beans, and potatoes! They also had meat turkey and gravy, which I obviously didn't eat. They made quite the feast! After stuffing myself so full, I crashed in Brooklyn for the night before heading back up to Columbia.

Another exciting thing was I had my Peace Corps interview! It went really well. I was rather nervous, because they told me the interview could go between 60-90 minutes. Well my interview went over 2 hours, but it was GREAT! My interviewer was so nice, and it felt almost more like a conversation than an interview. I felt very much as ease and thought it went very well, and I was rewarded just a few days ago with the news that I have been nominated for service! The next step is an extremely thorough medical clearance - Physical, ObGyn, Dental, and Eye exams all required, I think. I can't wait to continue moving forward with the process - maybe in a few months I will know for sure what I could be doing and where! It's nerve racking, because I could not find out until as little as 6 weeks before I leave for my service, which would be July. But it is also so exciting, and I can't wait to continue to learn more!

I am not going home for Christmas this year, as many of you already know, I decided to do a little bit of decorating in my room! Gotta get into the Christmas spirit after all! I haven't done much yet - I got myself a little Christmas tree that I decorated and made a few little paper snowflakes to hang around the room (yes, I know I am a total nerd). It makes me happy, since I can't be home with my usual Christmas traditions to at least have a little bit of festive cheer in my room. Hopefully it will help me get through exams!

In other news, the semester is coming to a close. Monday is the last day of classes. It's really flown by - I can't believe it's actually my senior year. I guess with all my traveling I didn't really see the weeks passing by me. Only one more semester and then I'm off to the real world - I don't know if I am quite ready to be there yet! I actually don't have a ton yet - for our group project, we have our final report, we have a 5-6 page progress report for senior design, one final lab, a GIS assignment and the take home final, and 2 sit down finals left. Wow, when I list it all out, it sounds like I still have a lot to do. Less than two weeks left, and I will be done with everything! My parents and grandma come up on the 23rd for Christmas in the city. And then on January 1st, I leave for my two weeks in Chile! I cannot wait for that - we got some more information, and I think it's going to be a really amazing trip. They only accepted 16 students out of a large group, so I feel so honored to be able to go!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tennessee!

Current Location: New York, NY

Hello world! I am back in NYC and doing work, but I wanted to catch everyone up on my weekend in Tennessee and other news. I had a great weekend chilling out in Tennessee with Nick! It's really nice to have a trip that I have absolutely NOTHING that I am required to do. When I was in Chicago, I had a visit to U of I, when I was home I had a wedding to attend, and other weekend have including having to see family in town, get scuba certified, and volunteer at an event. Even though I wasn't in town, this weekend included lots of loafing around, watching movies, and playing with the kitty. Yes, Nick has the cutest little black kitten ever!!! I don't have a pet, either at home or at school, so it's so much fun to get to play with one. She's a bit of a spazz, but when she calmed down and curled up, I died a little bit. I tried to smuggle her back to NYC, but for some unknown reason, Nick objected. Go figure.

So while in Tennessee, we did a few fun things, other than watching movies, playing with Kitty (which has a name by the way, I just can't remember how to spell it. I just call her Kitty), and loafing/sleeping. First, we went and saw the movie RED, which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it. Helen Mirren with a machine gun - totally worth price of admission! It has a great cast - John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Bruce Willis. It was really funny, so I enjoyed it immensely. The second thing we did was see my aunt and uncle. Funny story - so 2 weeks before I went to Chicago, and saw my Uncle Phil and Aunt Paula. So we were talking and I mentioned I was heading to Tennessee. Well we realized the weekend I was going to see Nick was the same weekend they were coming to see my cousin Chris, who also goes to Tennessee! We all met up for dinner one night which was great - I probably haven't seen Chris in over 5 years! Dinner had a few issues - the place we went to we discovered the Chef had walked out 2 days before, so they were out of tons of stuff. We managed to find enough they had for a good meal, and it was great to see them. I then flew back at the ungodly time of 6 AM, and spent Sunday catching up on some work.

So other news? Well, I am not traveling again until JANUARY for Chile - thats 1.5 months of no travel. As much as I love traveling, I am a bit behind and it's going to be nice to be relaxed and not worrying about flights and everything. Though it's going to be getting cold! In a week and a half, Thanksgiving comes around. I'm excited - Laura, Lucy and I are going to have a vegetarian thanksgiving feast! Since none of us eat meat, we won't have to worry about a turkey and instead will make all sorts of delicious things! Plus 4 days off of classes? It's gonna be great!

Then after Thanksgiving, I have my Peace Corps interview! I'm so excited for it! I'm nervous, but I can't wait to hear more about what possibilities there are for me. It's a scary thought, leaving for 2 years, but it's something I feel so passionate about and would be so excited for! I will certainly keep everyone updated on what happens. I am also looking at some other options in case this doesn't work out, but it is definitely my first choice. Fingers crossed! Then we have Christmas, New Years, and then Chile! I will definitely keep everyone updated as things progress. XOXOXO

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A crazy month

Current Location: New York, NY

Things have again been so crazy, that it's been a few weeks since I updated! Lot's of exciting things have happened.

First, my parents came to town, and Homecoming 2010 happened! It was a great trip! Lots of delicious food and time to see my parents. I really rarely get to see them, considering I barely ever go home, and they can only come up here a few times a year for a week at a time. We had a few great dinners, went to a jazz club one night, and went to a comedy club another. It's nice to get out in the city without paying. It was also homecoming 2010! My senior year homecoming! We sadly lost, but I had a great time. Senior tailgate (with free beer!), free scarf for being an engineer, an awesome giant foam pawprint, and pictures with Roaree! All in all, a great weekend. It was also a great celebration weekend for my GRE being done! I did really well on it, I nailed the math, and did better on the verbal than I thought!

Next was my big trip to Chicago! I went there for three reasons - first to see Illinois Urbana Champaign for one weekend. Second, to have a fun weekend out of the city. Third, to spend some quality time with my mom and my aunt, uncle and cousin who live in Chicago. It was a really great weekend. I love NYC, but sometimes it's nice to get out for a bit. I flew in Thursday night, and proceeded to head straight to a bar to meet my mom, my Uncle Phil, and my Aunt Paula. It was a place known for good food as well, so we got delicious dinner! It's great when your uncle knows all the best food places in the city! They dropped me and my mom off at their apartment in the city. The next morning, my mom and I did a walking tour of Chicago. It is such a pretty city, and the weather was really nice! We saw Navy Pier and Millennium Park as the highlights. After that, we went to the Art Institute to get some yummy lunch. That night, we headed out for dinner again, and went to an italian place that was great! That night we went back to my Aunt and Uncles house instead of the apartment, because Halloween festivities were getting ready to begin. They have the most epic Halloween party I have ever been to! It is the 31st annual party, and I think there were close to 100 guest there. I pulled together a last minute costume of Amy Winehouse, complete with my hair in a beehive and a bottle of Jack Daniels! It was pretty funny, though washing my hair in the morning was a nightmare. It was a great night. On Monday, I headed to Urbana Champaign to see the U of I campus. I met with some professors and the campus is beautiful. It's pretty far away from everything - don't know if I would like living in that small of a city. Who knows though, it could happen.

This past weekend I stayed in NYC, but I had the fun event of Kids for Kids to work! K4K is a fundraiser of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the foundation that we raise money for at Columbia's Dance Marathon. Kids for Kids is their big NYC wide fundraiser where there are fun, games, activities, and celebrities for kids to meet. I volunteered there last year and worked again this year. Got to see some cool celebs, like Tiki Barber, Sheri Shepherd, Mariska Hargitay, among others. It's an amazing event where so much money is donated to an amazing cause, and it was great to be a part of it.

So you might think, Jenni, your life is slowing down soon, right? No, not quite... This upcoming weekend, I am heading to Knoxville, Tennessee to visit Nick for the weekend. Then we have Thanksgiving coming up, where I will be in the city, spending time with Dana and Nate. Then finals come around, and Christmas in NYC will happen! My mom, dad, and Mama Doris are all coming up to the city for Christmas, rather than me, Dana, and Nate coming home. Then on January 1st, I fly to Chile for 2 weeks! I got into the program, and I am so excited for this trip. I will be living in a home stay for two weeks and will spend my time learning hydrologic field methods. It should be an amazing time. In other news, my Peace Corps application is continuing to move forward. I have to get fingerprinted for my background check, and then I am off to the first interview process. Wish me luck!

Until, next time.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Busy Busy

Current Location: New York, NY

I know, I know. I've gone 3 weeks without a post. Thing just keep happening so quickly that I barely have a chance to breathe, let alone write a blog post! Since I wrote my last post, I have had two extremely
exciting trips!

About 2 weeks ago, for the first weekend of October, I had a trip home. Getting home was a bit of an issue. Right when I was coming home, a tropical depression that had been making its way up from the gulf came to New York. My first flight out was cancelled, and I was rebooked. The rain was unbelievable - it was POURING. On my cab ride to the airport, there were flooded streets that we had to drive really slowly through. I got there, and ended up making an earlier flight to Atlanta! The flight was terrible though. The first 30 minutes the plane was bouncing around so much, I was majorly freaking out. I'm not the best flyer to begin with, but after 4 great and long flights this summer (round trip to Paris and round trip to Ghana), I was feeling a bit more comfortable. I think the guy next to me on this flight thought I was crazy! I was gripping my hand so tightly I ended up leaving some major claw marks that took about a day to disappear. Thats how bad it was!

While home, I spent most of my time seeing my family. I had not seen my dad or my grandma since before Paris, in June. We had some great family time, but I also managed to sneak a few other things in there. First, Friday night I was able to catch up with Meg, who also had some exciting international adventures this summer. We swapped stories and caught up with each others lives, which was great. It had been a while since I had seen her, and we have similar interests in travel, so it was great to chat! Then on Saturday morning, I was able to attend Caraline and Patrick's wedding. It was an absolutely beautiful ceremony at the Thomas Center. The ceremony was outside, and it couldn't have been nicer! It was a sunny warm day, gorgeous. Afterwards we had the ceremony inside, and it was great for me to catch up with so many people that I hadn't seen for ages. Whenever I am in Florida, it is rarely for more than a week, so its hard to fit everyone in. I managed to see a bunch of friends from high school at the wedding which was great. Caraline was such a beautiful bride, as were Liz, Lauren, and Rachel beautiful bridesmaids! I know that Caraline and Patrick will be so happy together!

The other exciting adventure I undertook was this past weekend - I got my scuba certification! Scuba diving has been something I have really been wanting to do for some time, and I finally did it this semester. It's a pricy hobby, but I really haven't been happier or enjoyed a hobby more in a long time! For our certification dives, we went to Pennsylvania to a place called Dutch Springs. It is a really cool area - they have all sorts of sunk vehicles in the water to go down and explore. I felt really at home while scuba diving. Having grown in with the water, I felt no fear going in there, and felt surprisingly at home underwater breaking off a mouthpiece. It's a weird thing, but I really love the feeling of seeing this whole other world that has yet to be discovered. I am already looking at places I want to go diving (Hawaii, Australia, and the Galapagos Islands are top of the list!). I am sure some of these future posts on where in the world I am will contain scuba stories - I just have to get the money first!

Oter than these exciting adventures, I have been planning and organizing for others in the future. I have been working on my Grad School application list. I am getting it narrowed down, but I still will be applying to between 5 and 10 schools. It's a lot, but I have to keep my options open. I have also completed my Peace Corps application. I am really excited about that possibility - it would truly be an adventure and experience unlike any other. However, there are a lot of issues and concerns that would need to be addressed for me to go for 2 years to a country alone. I will certainly keep everyone up to date as that progresses. Finally, I finished up my application for the field methods program in Chile over winter break. I should hear back by the end of this month - less than two weeks! Fingers are crossed!

In other news, GRE is Wednesday so I have been prepping for that. My mom and dad come up on Thursday, so I have an exciting weekend with that, and then the following weekend is a trip to Chicago with my mom! The following weekend I might be heading to Tennessee to visit Nick. I am a busy busy girl! Along with classes and research, I rarely have a moment to breathe! I am enjoying every minute of it though

I wil try to update this sooner than last time, but no guarantees - I am busy after all!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I am an epic failure, I know

Current Location: Brooklyn, New York

So first and foremost, I am a major failure. I haven't even updated since returning from Ghana, almost a month ago! I have been so busy since getting back that I actually haven't had an opportunity to write. Okay, maybe that's a little bit of a lie, but things just kept getting in the way, and I kept putting it off and forgetting. So sorry to everyone, how no one was conerned!

So my flight back from Ghana was actually really good. Even though it was long, I kept myself entertained watching tons of movies. I saw "Alice in Wonderland," "Date Night," and other miscellaneous movies that I am forgetting at the moment. Needless to say, they probably weren't that great if I can't remember them. The flight was very smooth, and the vegetarian meals were actually very good. The only bad part was that they barely fed us at all! It was an 11 hour flight, give or take a few minutes, and we got a normal lunch and a light dinner. Two meals in 11 hours is rather ridiculous!

Since being back, I have moved into my dorm, started school, planned one for sure trip, and have several others in the works. School is going well - my classes are going rather well so far. A lot of work, but I find them interesting. My dorm room is super adorable. It's small, but much larger than last year. I feel so spoiled - though who would have even thought I would be excited about my 125 sq ft dorm room and think it is large!

Coming up I have two trips. The first is actually on Friday! I am going home for only about 48 hours. During that time I need to make room to see my parents and grandmother, go to Caraline and Patrick's wedding, and hopefully see a few friends. It's going to be busy! Second, for my fall break, I am traveling to Chicago with my mom to see the city, visit my aunt and uncle, and make a few college visits for potential grad schools. Other trips that are either unsure or in the works are a weekend to Pennsylvania to become a certified scuba diver (I am just LOVING my scuba class), Tennessee to visit Nick in his new place, Chile for a winter break hydrology field methods program, and maybe some travel with my research. I can hardly stay still, I know! Other places I am dying to go to include Hawaii to see Amanda and scuba. Who knows what will happen in the next few weeks. When I visited Haiti I found out less than a week before I left, so perhaps something crazy will come up last minute.

I will try to keep this updated more often. Even if it is just reminiscing or talking about planning cool trips. Maybe I should change the name of the blog to "Where in the World would Jenni like to be?"

Right now I am in Brooklyn, having spent the night with Dana and Nate to celebrate Dana's birthday. It was a lot of fun! I've got to head out soon and battle the subway system from hell. Weekend construction is the bane of my existence! I will certainly update next weekend on my fun trip home with all the exciting details!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Week :(

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

So it's the last week here in Ghana, and there are only a few days left. Things have really just flown by - this month has been a whirlwind of trips, classes, and experiences I had never had before. I pride myself on being fairly well traveled, but this was truly like nothing I have ever done.

We began the week as usual. It was rough to have bucket showers and sleep on a mat on the floor after such luxury in Accra. I taught my class on Probability for Monday and Tuesday and it went over fairly well. I let the students play with coins and cards to find different probabilities and find out if something was independent or dependent, etc. It was a lot of fun, and fairly interactive. The design project continues to slowly progress. My group is definitely behind but they are getting their act together and are close to having a working model. It needs to be done by tomorrow though - fingers crossed they get it to work!

Wednesday was a really cool day, though we had SO MANY issues with the whole thing. On Wednesday we took the students on a field trip to Valley View University near Accra. Valley View is absolutely AMAZING. They are a completely sustainable campus, with compost latrines, a garden they grow all the food they eat in (they also have a completely vegetarian diet on campus), source separated latrines, greywater purifications systems, solar panels - so many great sustainable solutions and initiatives. Getting there was a nightmare. First, not all the students could fit on the bus, so we called a tro. After 30 minutes, the tro had still not showed up, and the guy called to cancel. So Chelsey goes to the local tro station and finds a tro that agrees to go. We load up, and the kids were excited so they were singing and clapping. There was some issue that occured in Twi between the students and the driver, I don't understand what happened, but he kicked us out and refused to take us. Finally we get a tro that will take the extra students. On the way, a student gets sick from taking malaria meds on an empty stomach, and the tro gets a flat tire. Whew, so many issues and problems for a school trip. The students had a great time there, as did the teachers - as someone who looks at sustainable water solutions, the greywater and rainwater harvesting systems were SO INTERESTING. They also had source separated toilets, which were really awesome.

Today was the second to last day of classes, and the last lesson that I taught to half the students. Class went well - I have been teaching the students excel and they really seem to be getting the hang of it. After class, Lucy and I went to the crafts market to get fabric. I got some beautiful prints in teal and red that I plan to make a bag and maybe a skirt or dress out of. It was so cheap too! I will have to find a good seamstress to make what I want when I get back - I want something nice to remember my time here by.

While I am ready to have some comforts back, I am actually pretty sad that the trip is over. I have enjoyed teaching a lot more than I expected, and living so basically actually is easier than I expected. I really like everyone who is on the trip as well - everyone is so chill and lots of fun, so it has really made the time here even easier. I will enjoy having high speed internet again, as well as running water, but I'll be sad to go.

Must go work with the kids some on their design projects - busy Thursday for me! Friday is the last day of classes and a soccer game for the kids, Saturday is graduation, and Sunday we are heading into Accra to finish souvenir shopping. Monday morning plane will take me away and back to the USA. I will try to update one last time before then, and I will certainly add final thoughts and pictures once I am back. Love to all!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Weekend in Accra

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

What an AMAZING weekend to help get through this last week here in Ghana. First of all, I can't believe that I only have 1 week left and have been here for 3 weeks. The time has really flown by for me and I am sad to go.

From my last post, we finished up with the design project at the school and headed back to Obodan to pack up and get ready for the weekend. It took us a little longer than expected to get ready to go, but at 5 PM we caught a tro tro to take us to Accra. The tro ride was a bit slow but mainly hassle free - however the problem we had came when we got in the cab to take us to the hotel. The taxi told us that he knew where it was, but he deid not - he took us at least 20 minutes in the wrong direction with us telling him it was the wrong direction before he finally listened. I had to pull up a map on my phone because he had absolutely no idea where he was going, and even then, he didn't know how to read the map. Ridiculous - these taxis want money so badly that they will pretend they know where they are going to get you in them.

After we finally got to the hotel, we checked in and went to our room. It was AMAZING! Our room had a king sized bed, two twin and a couch. There was a back porch that looked over the ocean. We had a large bathroom with a toilet that flushed and a shower. It was great. We all got ourselves showers - there was no water pressure, only a trickle of water, and it was cool (but not cold), but it was a SHOWER! Such a nice feeling. After we all showered we headed to a restaurant called Monsoon. It was a Japanese/Asian sort of restaurant, and I got sushi! It was delicious. I haven't been getting enough protein while here, so it was really nice to get fresh, safe to eat fish. YUM! It was pricy, but totally worth it. Afterwards, we went to a bar called Lizzie's and then a club called the Office to celebrate Clay's birthday. It was a lot of fun, and we were able to dance and have a great time at the club. Such a different world than Obodan and Nsawam!

The next day we woke up and all took another shower. Might as well enjoy it while we have the shower! After all the showers we checked out and headed to Labodi Beach Hotel where we had been told there was the best brunch in all of Accra. It was an all you can eat buffet! I don't even want to admit how much I ate that day. I thought I was going to pop! After eating we all laid down outside to digest and just chatted and enjoyed the weather. It was so nice to have a just chill day where there wasn't anything we had to do. We were going to go to the crafts market but we were all tired, so we just headed home.

Now we are at school on Monday morning and getting ready for our busy last week! Deisgn project, 2 classes, a field trip, and a design expo left, plus our graduation! It's going to be a hectic last week!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week 3 - being sick, teaching, and traveling!

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

So first, I finally got a picture loaded! This is from several weeks ago when a large group of us went to Cape Coast. This is right next to Elmina Castle that we toured, and for those who don't know, the picture is of Lucy, myself, and Claire. I will post lots more when I get back home and have real internet!

What a week. So last time I posted on our official blog, http://pieceittogether.wordpress.com, on Sunday, I said how happy I was that I hadn’t gotten sick yet. Well, way to jinx yourself Jenni. What do you know, but on Monday, I get really sick. I made it to school and got through my first class, but I was feeling so awful my second class that Chelsey told me to just rest. It was a good move, because I started throwing up about 10 minutes into the second period. Clay went home with me, and I spent all day both Monday and Tuesday in bed. I really can’t imagine a more miserable way to be sick. At least with the stomach flu in the states, I would have air conditioning, cool water, flushing toilets, and cool showers to lower my temperature. Instead I was laying in a hot room with only a fan and a latrine. Not so fun, but I made it through. Luckily it was only a 24 hour stomach bug and not something more serious!

The rest of the week went pretty well. I was weak from not being able to eat for 2 days, but I have gained back my strength now. Classes on Wednesday and Thursday consisted of me teaching the kids how to use Microsoft Excel. It was a lot of fun, and I think the students found it useful. I was trying to teach probability on Friday with blackjack, but it was such a short class that it was hard. Also, the students had never played blackjack before, so I ended up just teaching them how to play blackjack the whole class and not able to tie it into probability. It was a fun class though, and the students really seemed to enjoy it a lot.

The design project continues to keep going. My group has decided to use a water wheel powered by a motor to circulate the water from the bottom back up to the top. It is a good idea but might be hard to implement in the last week. I have faith in them though, and I think they can do it if they really put their mind to it. It should be an exciting last week with our last 2 classes, design project, and a field trip that we are trying to organize.

Yesterday we had a fieldtrip with the kids. We took them to Obodan to read to the children in the village. Students are not always exposed to service opportunities here like we are in the states, and we wanted to encourage them to give back and help students that are not as privileged as themselves. The bus ride over was quite the experience – the bus seated about 30, and I think we had 55 on it. Kids were sitting 3 to a seat, standing in the aisles, and sitting on the steps and floor. They were all singing and clapping and having a lot of fun. They were even making up some songs about PiT which were really funny. When we got to the village to start reading, some of the students seemed skeptical at first, but they really got into it. I think when they saw about 100 little children all so excited that the older kids were coming to read to them, they got a little more excited about it. It was really cute to see – they were holding their kids in their laps and being patient and teaching them to read and write. The kids can be rowdy sometimes in our classes, and it was great to see them so quiet and helpful for the kids.

After the reading we played a soccer game for the PiT kids against the local Obodan Senior High age team. It was pouring before so the field was really muddy, and it was raining steadily throughout the entire game. The PiT team lost 3-5, but the refereeing was awful – 3 of the Obodan team’s goals were not legal – one offsides, one pentalty kick that was not a penalty, and one that went 2 feet over the goal and the ref counted it. So frustrating – I was yelling on the sidelines!

Today we are currently at school watching over and helping the kids with their design projects. The evening we are planning on heading into Accra for the night because it is Clay’s birthday! Going to get some good food, stay at a hotel with a shower, and go out to see the Ghanaian night life in Accra! I am sure we will have great stories from that. Sunday we are going to go to a crafts fair to do our souviner shopping, and then its back to Obodan and Nsawam for our last crazy week!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Week 2 in Ghana

Current Location: Obodan, Ghana

What a crazy busy week! I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to update, as well as we have had some power outages that have made it difficult for us to access internet – if the power is down, all the internet cafes close down!

Today is officially day 14 of my time here in Ghana, meaning it marks my halfway point! We fly home 2 weeks from tomorrow, which is really bizarre. It hardly seems like I have been here a week, I can’t believe it’s half over. We have been so busy with lesson planning, organization, and teaching that the time has really flown by. The usual day has us waking up at 5:45. We leave for school before 7, arriving by 7:30. We start class sometime between 8 and 8:30. After classes are over, we supervise the design project. The whole day goes until either 2 or 4, depending on whether it is a market day or not. Monday’s and Thursdays the students leave at 2 PM, and they leave at 4 PM the other three days. After classes and design project are over, we have to clean up and pack up all our materials. We sometimes have to go to the market or the internet cafĂ©. I would say so far we usually get home around 7. It gets dark at 7, so when we get home it already seems late. We go haul water for cooking, cleaning, and bathing and then cook dinner. Dinner is over by 8:30 or 9 on most days, and we have to wash dishes, take showers, and finish lesson plans. Then its bed time and start all over again the next day!

The first week of teaching went really well. I last posted after I had finished my first day, and the rest of the week went very smoothly. The students are very attentive and eager to learn, and I think my lessons have all been going over very well. The students really have enjoyed the activities that we have done so far. It seems I am somewhat succeeding on my mission to try to make math fun and practical for the students. I am still figuring out everything for next week, especially considering the fun and practical part, but I’m hoping my second week of lessons is as successful as my first. I had never really considered teaching at a potential career, but after seeing how rewarding this is, I might have to reconsider that a little bit! Though it’s totally not what I need – I already have enough problems deciding what I want to do with my life without adding another potential career!

We also began the design project with the kids this week. We are having the kids design a hydroponic system to grow plants in. We are trying to lead them in the project but allowing it to be their own. The students are so imaginative – they have very creative ideas and it should be interesting to see all their finished projects. It is difficult to always know what they are doing – they often start discussing and arguing in Twi rather than English since it is more comfortable for them, but when that happens I have no idea what is going on! The group I am helping seems to have a fairly good idea about things. We have two more weeks for the project to be constructed and implemented, so hopefully by then all 3 groups will have successful projects that they can be proud of.

We went for dinner in Achimota, a town very close to Accra, on Friday night, and then on Saturday myself, Chelsey, and Lucy went into Accra to buy a router for the school so they can have internet access. Accra is a totally different world from what we are in. There is much more diversity, so our skin color does not stand out as much. I felt like I stood out more because of my dress than for my skin color. I was wearing the sort of clothing I wear in the rural area we are staying, while everyone else was dressed nicely and cleanly. It was very obvious that we were staying outside of Accra! I would love to spend more time in Accra sometime – it seems like a very interesting city. Unfortunately we have so little time here, and even less free time that we won’t be able to spend more than a day or 2 in Accra at most. I guess it’s a good excuse for me to come back! Today we had a down day. I wasn’t feeling fantastic this morning, so I stayed inside to try to cool off, while the EWB people did some work with the latrine. I was glad I didn’t have to do anything with that! In the afternoon, there was a soccer game between Obodan and a neighboring town. Chelsey, Clay, and Sammy all played on Obodan’s team, and we won! It was a lot of fun – there were lots of kids and people from the town around and all watching. It’s a big community activity to watch soccer, so it was really interesting to see.

The transportation in Ghana continues to freak me out. During this week we had a new record for number of people in a car – seven. We are taking a small car, built to fit five people max, probably about the size of a Honda Civic if not smaller. We squeezed four people in the back seat (including 2 guys that have rather long legs and broad shoulders!), two people in the front passenger seat, and the driver. Luckily it was a short ride, but it was still interesting – my foot was asleep by the time we got back to Obodan! We also have continued to have interesting tro-tro experiences. At times it can be a bit scary – people are NOT patient, and at a tro station when lots of people want to get home, there can be a bit of a mad rush and a lot of pushing and shoving to try to get in. A lot of the roads we have to drive on are also extremely bumpy – I feel sometimes like I should be on a theme park ride how much we are bouncing around in the tro. Seat belts also don’t exist here, at least not for passengers. Sometimes the driver will have one but it’s not always the case. I haven’t seen anything worse than a fender bender since being here, so at least people seem to know what they are doing on the roads. You could not pay me enough money to have my drive these roads!

Also on a happy note, I got my camera back after a pretty complicated experience. However, the camera no longer seems to work. The memory card still has all the pictures I had taken on it, so I at least did not lose that, which is nice. We are going to try to figure out what happened to the camera, and maybe we can repair it. If not, I can have best buy check it out back in the states and maybe get it repaired there. Fingers crossed, and I am at least happy that enough people were honest enough to help me get my camera back. The memory card also has a ton of pictures of the random guy and his friends, so I have those now too. Think those will be deleted VERY soon!

Well that’s it for now. I hope to be able to update more often so I don’t post these ridiculously long blogs all the time. I miss everyone in the states tons, and I promise to post the pictures that I at least have if not more once I get back.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ghanaian Adventures!

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

Sorry it has taken me so long to update! Internet is only available in Nsawam, and even then it isn't always the most reliable. We have had quite the busy few days, and I know it will continue to be so.

We have already had a few short trips, and we will likely take a few more. On Wednesday we went towards to the west side of Ghana near the coast. Our first stop was Kakum Rainforest. It was absolutely beautiful, and we did a canopy walk, which was on the sketchiest rope bridges ever over the tops of the trees. It was SO PRETTY! After that we went to a place called Elmina in the Cape Coast area. We took a tour of Elmina Castle, which was built over 500 years ago and was used largely in the slave trade. Over 1000 slaves would be kept there at a time. It was very sad to see, but so interesting. How slavery went on for so long is beyond me...

On Wednesday we went to Accra to get food. We can get the basics that we need in Nsawam or Obadan, but other things are harder to find so we stocked up on stuff like canned tomatoes and spices and harder to find things. We also found a place for PIZZA! It was so delicious! I miss good food and have been CRAVING mushrooms! Mushrooms are impossible to find here and I miss them so much. Same with sushi and things like that. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

On Saturday, we went on a trip to Boti Falls. Boti Falls is a beautiful waterfall a few hours north of us. We went to see the falls, and then went on a hike to see two awesome natural formations - the umbrella, which is a rock that has a huge overhang like an umbrella, and a three trunk palm tree, which is pretty self explanatory. It was a very hard hike though! Very hilly and rocky, I got quite the work out. AFter that we went to Aburi Botanical gardens for dinner and to look around. There were these amazing old trees called Silk Cotton Trees, and they were MASSIVE. We had fun climbing some smaller trees, and playing with an old helicopter that had broken down. Sadly, I left my camera in the tro-tro on the ride home :( Sammy is trying to retrieve it for me, but my camera (with 250 awesome pictures) is gone. Needless to say, I am heartbroken. Send happy thoughts my way that the camera shows up!

Today was our first day of class. I was rather nervous, but it went rather well. My lesson wasn\t quite long enough, but I improvised and came up with enough to fill the time. 2 hours is a very long time to fill with fun and education activities! The kids are very nice, but I am struggling with names. So many names at once is hard to handle. I will do my best, and hopefully by the end I will know everyone.

I hope to continue to update somewhat often but it will be hard to do. I miss everyone, but I am having an amazing experience here and wouldn't chane ity for the world (well, maybe for the world hehe).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

GHANA!

Current Location: Nsawam, Ghana

Hello everyone! I landed safe and sound in Ghana and have begun to get settled. Things are going great, though very crazy, and VERY different than anything I've ever experienced.

The flight was really good, and I met a nice guy sitting next to me, That definitely helped the 11 hours go by quickly. We landed and had no problems with passport control or luggage which made things a lot easier than they could have been. We left and we were met by Chelsey and Sammy who had a van to bring us back to where we were staying. We stopped by an ATM to get some money and we were off.

We are staying in a rural town about 45 minutes outside of Accra, the capital. We are in little walk through rooms. It's fairly nice - we have a floor, a roof, and walls, and we can lock our doors to keep our things safe. There is electricity, but no running water or air. There are currently 9 of us staying in 2 walk through rooms. It's not a ton of room, but its enough to get our beds out and have a little space to hang out in. There are lots of little kids in our town. Most people in our area speak both English and Twi, an African language. It's so funny, the little kids will run after us waving and yelling "Obrani" which is their word for white people. They are very affectionate and love to play with our electronics. They got hold of my camera and took over 100 pictures!

It is interesting to try living like this when I have always had running water and basic necessities. My first shower was quite the adventure. I walked to the borehole, pumped a bucket of water, carried it back and used that for my shower. I wish I had cut off all my hair before coming here. Trying to get the shampoo out was a nightmare! All in all it was okay, though I had to use a flashlight since there was no electricity in the shower! The latrine was not hard to use but smelly and eye opening! It really makes my appreciate everything I have in the states so much more. We all sleep under mosquito nets and try to burn things to keep them away at night. No one wants to get sick. We also can't drink the well water. We buy "satchets" which are little plastic baggies of water. I have some iodine tablets that I can use, but I want to be careful, don't want to make myself sick.

We are currently at the school where we will be teaching handing out applications for our program. We start teaching on Monday and we hope to have 80 kids in the program. If we get more applications back, we will have to reject some people which would be sad. We have a few more days to get our lesson plans and activities together, which I will need. We might get to take a few trips too - we will have to see. Might be going to Cape Coast soon, which would be really great!

Must get back to work, but I will continue to update as often as I can!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

NYC... for 30 hours

Current Location: Brooklyn, NY

I am running my last few errands before Ghana, so this is going to be a super short post!

Tuesday night at the Eiffel Tower was great. It was so pretty seeing everything lit up at night. We didn't get to go to the top due to some confusion with the tickets, so we got ice cream and then headed home. Really fun night

Wednesday we had a fancy farewell dinner at this really nice restaurant. There was a great soup, salmon, cheese, and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was one of my favorite meals! Yum!

Thursday I didn't do anything too exciting. I needed some downtime to finish planning everything for Ghana. Same with Friday, except we had a delicious farewell reception with champagne and desserts! Then got some food and said my goodbyes and finished packing.

I had a really great time in Paris, but now I have a new, completely different adventure to look forward to! My flight for Ghana leaves today at 4:30 - I am almost packed and ready to go! I ill try to update as much as possible from Ghana, but it still remains to be seen how much that will really be. Hope you have enjoyed my France stories, and look out for Ghana posts starting in a few days!

P.S. Never plan a trip where you cross the Altantic twice, are in 3 countries, and spend 20 hours in a plane in less than 48. Not really smart!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time is FLYING by!

Current Location: Paris, France

Seriously, where did this month go??? I don't understand it - seems like just yesterday I was getting here, and I fly home on Saturday! I'm going to miss it - I've been having a great time, so much fun! Lucky for me, I have another adventure planned immediately, so I don't have time to be sad about it!

Thursday night we went to the play, as I had mentioned. Unfortunately it was all in French - and we are talking FAST French. I read up on the play in advance, but a lot of people hadn't and even people who are advanced in French couldn't keep up with a lot of the dialogue. The scenes were amazing and the acting was really good. However, it was supposed to be 3 hours long, and I couldn't stay, as I had a test the next day as I left at intermission to study.

Friday I was very tired from the studying, so I left in the afternoon after class to take a nap. It was a glorious nap, but I slept all evening! I was going to go to the catacombs, but the line was sadly too long, and I took my nap instead. So I'm sad to say it but Friday afternoon was wasted a bit. However, I made my plans for the next day, so it wasn't a complete waste...

Saturday, I woke up early and headed to Giverny! Giverny is where Claude Monet lived and painted some of his most famous paintings - the water lilies, the willow trees, and the bridge as examples. the gardens were absolutely breathtaking. That's a job I wouldn't mind - maintaining the gardens at Giverny. I would be happy every day around those beautiful plants! That evening, we went to Versailles to see the fountain light show. It was absolutely AMAZING. The gardens are breathtaking, and the fountains were lit up and absolutely gorgeous. It was by far the "prettiest" day I have had, with all the gardens and flowers. I would love to visit Versailles again in the light and tour the house, but I don't think this trip it will be happening. Maybe next time.

Sunday was another lazy day after all the craziness of the day before. I realized for my entire time here, Sunday was the first day that I could sleep as late as I wanted, and I took full advantage of that fact. With it being my last week, I wanted to get rest and relax so I can enjoy it as well as be ready for Ghana. Sunday night we had a mini party and drinking time - played waterfall, and I will never play never have I ever again - why do I always lose????

So far its been classes as usual this week. Monday night we went for delicious crepes by the Center Pompidou - they were the best crepes I think I have had in Paris! Not too greasy or burned, just perfect! Today in class I had a group presentation on Obama that was a lot of fun. We did very well I think! Also, on Monday, Melanie was in Paris and called me, so I got lunch with her in the afternoon and hung out in the Louvre. It was nice to see someone from home in Paris (though a little random). It made me think of home :)

Tonight we are heading to the Eiffel Tower at night. I've done the Eiffel Tower twice, but never at night so I am really excited to see the city lit up! Tomorrow we have a fancy farewell dinner. Thursday I might go to EuroDisney with a few people - sure it won't compare to Disney World though! Friday we have a farewell reception, and Saturday morning I fly home. Busy few days, and I will try to get one last update or so in this week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brussels and Sickness :(

Current Location: Paris, France

I had an AMAZING day Sunday in Brussels, followed by not quite as great a week so far :(

Sunday I got up early to catch a 8 AM train from Paris to Brussels. The train was fine - it took around an hour and 15 minutes. I got off and walked to the city square of Brussels. Luckily I didn't get lost once and found it just fine. Since I had such a limited amount of time in Brussels, I really wanted to see as much as possible, so I took a biking tour! It was a 4 hour bike tour, from 10 AM to 2 PM and we got to see SO MUCH of the city! I had forgotten how fun it is to bike! I was rather rusty at first... I may or may not have crashed into a trash can when going at first. However, I got the hang of it fairly quickly, and after that it was great. Brussels is such a cute little city, and the main square is so beautiful. On the tour we also stopped and got fries (which were AMAZING) and some Belgian beer. After the tour I went and got some belgian chocolates - yum! Then it was back to the train station. I wish I could have spent more time there, but I got to see a lot in the amount of time I was there.


Sadly, after that busy day, the lack of sleep all caught up with me, and I woke up Monday morning very sick. A combination of a head cold and allergies basically made my head feel like it was going to explode from pressure. Also the drainage gave me a sore throat, so it was all in all not a good feeling. I skipped that afternoons activity, which was a tour of the Louvre that I was really looking forward to. The bit of rest I got really helped, and I started feeling better Tuesday but still not great. I made it through the day though, which was the important part. That evening I went out and got a delicious crepe for dinner with a few girls. However, I was still tired, and I ended up falling asleep before my conference call that night.

Wednesday I continued feeling slowly better and we had a really fun afternoon. We had a walking tour of Montmartre! We learned so much more history of the area than I had ever known, and it's just such a fun area. After the tour we did some browsing at adorable little shops. That evening we had dinner at Refuge des Fondus, a yummy little fondue restaurant. Best part though - the served their glasses of wine in baby bottles!!! Funniest pictures ever will be posted soon on facebook! Its definitely my new favorite way to drink wine! After dinner, I brilliantly decided to go to a bar with everyone, which was lots of fun, but I woke up this morning STILL not completely better. Maybe some rest tonight will make me better for this weekend!

Today we are going to see the play Cyrano de Bergerac, which should be really fun! I can't believe we are so close to the end of the trip. I fly home a week from Saturday, and turn around immediately for my trip to Ghana. I hope to continue to update this blog so everyone can follow what I am up to! It will be a completely different world, and I can't wait to discover it! Plus I think it will really help me solidify my plans for after graduation. Love to all, and check back in a few days to hear about what my weekend holds for me! Hopefully lots of fun (last weekend in Europe - yikes!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Paris and Chartres Adventures!

Current Location: Paris, France

I have had SUCH a busy week, I haven't had a moment to write! Sorry to everyone following this, and I will do my best to catch you up on all my adventures.

Monday, I had, as usual, class in the morning. That afternoon, we visited the Palais Garnier, which is well known as the Opera house that the phantom of the opera is based off of. Looking at the steps made me feel like I had just walked out of the movie! It was relaly amazing to go to and see up close.

Tuesday, We had our long day of classes. I am struggling a bit with french, especially with the pronunciation. The sounds are just so foreign, and I can't figure out how to pronounce something just by reading the word, which makes it very difficult. Also, we learned numbers, and no offense to anyone, but the number 70-99 are really stupid. 70 literally means 60 + 10, and so on so that 79 is 60 + 19. Then when you get to 80, it literally means 4 20s. Why not just have a word mean 80? Blah, so confusing.....

Tuesday night we participated in a really fantastic tradition - Bals Des Pompiers! Basically, all the firehouses become big parties for the night to celebrate the July 14th holiday the next day. We had a big group go, and it was TONS of fun! Dancing and laughing and drinking champagne. Man, the French holiday might be better than the 4th of July! I think we need a tradition of fire house parties!

Wednesday, we had no classes because it was French National Day (or as silly americans call it, Bastille Day). Well sadly, it was raining in the morning, so our picnic was cancelled and we had to eat inside. Luckily it cleared up that evening, so we went out and saw the fireworks for the 14th! It was so beautiful - the fireworks were amazing! I took pictures, but they truly don't do it justice.

Thursday we had a walking tour of the Marais after class. It was an area that I haven't spent much time in at all, so it was really nice to learn more about the history and see all the amazing houses and mansions that are located there. After the tour, we went and got some really good Falafel! I felt like I was in NYC again!

Friday I had class, and sadly wasn't feeling too good, so I skipped out on our event that afternoon and rested. Also did laundry - oh so exciting!

Today was our day trip to Chartres, a little town about an hour to 90 minutes outside of Paris. There was a gorgeous Cathedral there that we had a guided tour from a really cool British man. It was in the process of being cleaned - the cleaned area let us realize just how dirty these cathedrals really get! The cleaning and restoration is supposed to be done in 5-6 years, and I would love to come back and see how it looks once it is finished! After the tour, we had a delicious four course lunch. YUM!

Tomorrow is my day trip to Brussels! I am going to be taking a biking tour so I can see as much of the city as possible. After the tour I've got about 90 minutes for shopping. I must get me some belgium chocolates for sure!!!!

Love to all! Only have 2 weeks left here in Paris (which is crazy - the time is flying by), and then my blog posts will start focusing on my time in GHANA!!!!

P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMY

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oh Nice...

Current Location: Nice Airport, Nice, France

So this has been an interesting weekend, to say the least. It wasn't what I was expecting, but Courtney and I have had quite the adventures and will have MANY stories to tell from this experience.

So getting there was fairly glitch free, once I got to the airport, that is. First, I had some flight issues. I'm not gonna go into it, but had to spend a good chunk of money fixing flight issues. I was going to cab it, but couldn't find a cab stand, so I decided to train it. That is where my one glitch occurred - in trying to buy my ticket. WIthout realizing it, I was on the line that takes only card and coins. Well thats alright, I have a card. WRONG. The machine would only take european credit cards. Well I didn't have enough change, so I ask a fruit guy in the station if he can make change. He says no. I'm about to start crying, when I see, lo and behold, a machine that takes bills too! Only thing it only takes exact change. Well digging through my wallet I find the change and get my ticket. Crisis averted.

The train is fine and check in goes smoothly. However, once on the plane, we get delayed about 45-60 minutes. Kinda annoying, considering Courtney had her own travel issues and had been in Nice since around 10 AM! Finally, we take off, I get there, get a bus, etc etc, and check in. YAY! We wander around get some food, and then found the coolest thing EVER! A foot-volley tournament! It is volleyball and football (as in soccer for americans) into ONE SPORT. It is played in pairs, and you have to get the ball over the net without using your hands. The guys were AMAZING! After that we got some drinks (desperado = amazing beer!) and went to bed.

And oh, the hostel. Not exactly what we were expected. It was a brand new hostel, just opened on July 1st. By brand new, they mean renovated hotel - and renovations are VERY behind. We had no AC and no WiFi like we thought, and DAMN was it hot at night. Did not sleep too well with that heat. The location was great, the people were really nice, and they gave us a refund of about 1/3 of our cost because of the issues which was really nice.

Our 2 days were really good. Day 1 (or 2 depending on how you look at it. Saturday anyways) was GREAT! We did everything that we wanted to, and walked all over the place! We think we walked about 5-6 miles that day, and oh yeah, we walked up a mountain! Not exactly, but kinda lol. It was a lot of fun, and we saw all sorts of things in Nice. That afternoon we hung out at the beach. The beach is very different from what I'm used to - they are pebble beaches, not sand. kinda hard to walk on barefoot, but they have their merits. We ended the day with some drinks at the bar. However, it was SO HOT last night, neither of us could sleep much, which was sad.

Today started out disappointing, but ended great, and then got disappointing again for me. Court and I had signed up for a scuba class - it was an introductory dive and seemed super cool. However, no one told me until we got to the place at 9 AM that you cant dive within 24 hours of having a flight. Well I didn't know, so we had to cancel that. We then went on an adventurous bus ride! LOL. LOoooooong story :). We then decided to head to the beach and just relax. It's vacation after all. Well when we went, we decided to go PARASAILING! It was absolutely AMAZING. The views were great, it was actually like we were flying. I loved it, and could have done it over and over if I had time (and could afford it!). After that we lounged on the beach and relaxed. It was vacation after all!

Now this is where things get REALLY interesting. After the beach all day, Courtney and I get food, and then I head to the airport to catch my flight. So I get to the airport really early, and what to I find out - my flight was cancelled. I go wait in line for about an hour before I get to someone and they try to rebook me for Monday at 2. Well I have class Monday mornings, so I ask for an earlier flight to Charles de Gaulle airport. So they say I can take an 8 AM flight. By this time I'm tired, stressed, and ready to be home, so I do what I never do - I start to cry. The woman seems to feel bad for me and offers to put me on the waitlist for a flight that night. I will have to wait around an 2 hours to find out if I can get on, but it's the best option (there were no trains I could take either). SO I wait, and lucky me - I get through! Well I go through security and Of course, the flight is delayed about 2 hours. I won't go through all the details of the wait (which sucked) and the flight (which sucked), but I made it back to my room around 1:30 in the morning. Bleh

All for now - Will update with things from this week in Paris sooon! Lots of stuff planned, including Bastille Day!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Week of French!

Current Location: Paris, France

Okay, so it's only been three days technically, but I have officially begun my French Classes! It has been a PACKED few days - I actually haven't had time to sit down and actually write until now!

So on Tuesday, classes started! It is taught completely in French - as in instructions and homework and everything is only spoken in French. It is a really good way to learn I think - I feel like my understanding is very good in both reading and listening to french after only 3 days, and it will continue to improve. However, my speaking and writing skills are still a bit problematic. They should only improve with time though! After our first day of class, a group of the girls went exploring - and shopping! I got a super cute dress at a boutique store and then we headed to Saint Michel to go to bookstores. I had to buy 2 books that are like workbooks for the class. However, unlike in the states, these 2 books cost about 20 euros. Totally affordable. We browsed for a while, and then headed back to the dorm. They had screwed up our tuesday afternoon class, so the program bought us all pizza and had a french chatting session. Problem though - I only know about 7 phrases, like I am american, and I speak english! Some people chatted in english so it was alright. We got some wine that night and chilled in the lounge going through Paris books and making lists of what we want to do this month :)

Wednesday we had class in the morning as usual. For lunch Wednesday, I tried the cafeteria for the first time by our dorm. It was surprisingly good considering it was 3 euros of a HUGE meal! Will def go there some to save money! After that, we headed to the musee du vin, or the museum of wine! We got to go around the museum and then had a wine tasting afterwards. It was a lot of fun, though there were some creepy statues in there! After that we headed to try to go to a museum of fashion but sadly, it was closed for renovations. Booo. So Myself and Julianna headed to Gallery Lafayette, which is this AMAZING department store. Seriously, I was in love. Can't afford all the Miu Miu and Prada shoes sadly :( That night we had another mini wine party

Today, once again was class. We are going at a pretty good speed I think, and as we get more comfortable, I think we will speed up. After class, we went exploring, and found a fantastic shopping street right by campus. Didn't buy anything today - I was a good girl!we walked a lot, and then headed to this skyscraper in Paris - its 56 stories tall and you can go up to a terrace and see Paris. We went up and saw everything, which was really nice. Eiffel Tower looks pretty from high up! Then we had an excursion which was a 2 hour walking tour of the Latin Corner. It had a lot of history and was extremely interesting, and I saw so many things. Needless to say, after about 4 hours straight of walking, I was quite exhausted and have spent a nice relaxing night in my room. Watched the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie, which I liked. Book was better, but the movie was still good.

Tomorrow I have class in the morning and then I leave for Nice with Courtney Hardenbrook! We will be meeting there are staying for 3 nights, so I am very excited. I am in love with Paris, but excited to see the south of France and be out of the busy atmosphere for a few days. Au Revoir!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Paris and my Program!

Current Location: Paris, France

I've been so busy I haven't had time to update this! I have been having a great but busy time these past few days in Paris.

On Friday, me and my mom got up fairly early and headed to Sacre Coeur. It was a beautiful church on a hill in the Montmartre area. It was quite a walk up the stairs, but it was totally worth it! The view is breathtaking! After that, we went to the Musee d'Orsay to see the amazing paintings there. There are hundreds of Monet's, Manet's, Renoir's, and Van Gogh's - it's absolutely amazing. It really makes our museums in the US look very small. We were tired that night, so we went out and bought some bread, cheese, and fruit and watched the Uruguay-Ghana soccer match. I was SO FURIOUS with the end - don't even get me started.

Saturday was MOVE IN! I slept in - I had been having problems sleeping, and it was raining, so we decided to not go do anything that morning. Around 2, I caught a cab and headed into our dorms. They weren't supposed to be ready until 4, but luckily, they were all clean when we got there! I moved in at exactly the same time as another girl, Katy, and we have been getting along really well. We went and explored the area, and that night was an early night - almost everyone was so jet lagged, they needed to rest. I'd been so busy that I've needed a few days to catch up on sleep too!

Sunday we took a boat cruise down the river Seine. It was a gorgeous day, and we got a delicious lunch and got to see the views. Since it was the first Sunday of the month, the museum's were all free, so we went to Orsay (again for me). There were several wings I hadn't seen, so it wasn't too repetitive for me :) After that we headed back and got some much needed rest - It was a pretty far walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Museum!

Today was our (somewhat) first day of class. In actuality, it was the French placement exam. I already know my level - complete beginner! So I didn't have to take the test, so I chatted with the other girl who is a beginner and the professor that is traveling with us. It was a nice morning. After that, we stopped by a Patisserie and got some brunch before heading shopping! I found a cute dress! After that we went to pick up food for our rooms. I got cereal and exciting things like that. The cost wasn't terrible - I'm glad the Dollar is doing fairly well next to the Euro or I would be broke in no time!

This week is consisting of several exciting things. French classes start tomorrow, which I am so excited for! On Wednesday, we are going to the Museum of Wine for a tour and wine tasting event! Thursday is a tour of one of the neighborhoods nearly. And Friday, after class I am heading to Nice for the weekend with Courtney! I am so exciting to finally see the south of France :) We will see what adventures come of it. Ta Ta for now!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello from Paris!


Current Location: Paris, France

Bonjour!!! I am updating this from my hotel room during my now 3rd day here in France, and I am having an AMAZING time!!

Well as of my last update, I was at the Newark airport. Flight came and we boarded close to on time and started our way to Paris! On the plane I watched two movies. The first movie I watched was New Moon, and it was SO BAD it defies description. Sadly I used to like the series, but not anymore! It was good for a laugh though, and kept my mind off the turbulence, which was a bit bad at times (plus I'm an awful flyer)! Second I watched was Inglourious Basterds. It was good, but it also rewrote history which I found a bit odd. I have an inability to sleep on planes, but I tried after the two movies - no luck. Unfortunately, the people sitting next to us had a cat, which I had a major allergic reaction to, so I wasn't feeling too hot as we landed in Paris.

Our first day (Tuesday) was pretty low key. We were exhausted, since neither myself or my mom slept too well on the flight. We took a taxi to our hotel, and checked in, but it was too early for our room to be ready. We went upstairs to get some free breakfast for being Marriott platinum members and then off to get me a cell phone! The language barrier wasn't too bad, and we got me a phone on a pay as you go plan for not too much. When we came back the room was ready and we came back and promptly took a nap! After that we got a delicious dinner at a little cafe nearby - a bottle of white wine, escargot, avocado salad, and a selection of cheeses! Delicious!

Wednesday was a packed day! We woke up fairly
early, got breakfast, and we were off! We took the train over to Notre Dame and headed there first. It is so beautiful, and the history with it is amazing. Next we walked over to Sainte-Chappelle. It is a church with these amazing stained glass windows. Sadly, they are currently cleaning and restoring the windows, so several were missing. It was still very beautiful without
them. Next we decided to walk over to Orangerie - it is a museum in Paris that has several beautiful originals of Monet. It was a small museum so we were able to see everything which was nice. The walk there was lovely - we walked through the Jardin des Tulieries, which was absolutely amazing - they keep their gardens so nice! Finally we decided to go to Invalides to see the World War I and II museum and Napoleon's tomb. The tomb was stunning!
Beautiful art everywhere. The museum was very interesting as well - my grandfather fought in the war, so I love to see information about what happened. All that we did added up to 5 miles of walking so we were exhausted! We decided to just eat at the hotel, but had a delicious dinner. Called it an early night :)

Today we got two major things done - Eiffel Tower and Arc du Triomphe! We woke up a little later than we planned - all that walking had made us tired. We headed to the Eiffel Tower, where we had a bit of a wait, but we made it up. The views are breathtaking up there. Afterwards we headed down and took some pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. We then went to a little cafe Laura had recommended called Tourville - it had delicious milkshakes! After that we headed over to the Arc du Triomphe. It's really amazing to see up close. We didn't pay to go in, but it was nice to see.

Tonight we are going to head over to the area I am going to be living for 4 weeks and get a feel for it. Hope to find something fun for dinner too! The next few days we are probably going to go to Montmarte and a few museums - I will be sure to update.

Au Revior!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Paris Bound!

Current Location: Newark Airport, NJ

Hello all! I'm currently sitting in the Newark Airport, waiting for my flight to Paris. It has been a very exciting last few days in NYC, and while I am sad to go, I am SO EXCITED for my 5 weeks in Paris! I know its going to be an amazing experience, and I promise to blog and keep everyone updated on what I am doing.

So this past week has been non stop craziness. So wednesday I headed downtown to have drinks and snacks with my parents, and then we went and saw Memphis. It was very good quality, but they kinda rushed parts of the plot. Still liked it though. Thursday was work all day, and that night we had dinner with my grandparents that live in NYC. I hadn't seen them in a long time - they live in the Bronx, so it's not easy for me to get up there. We went to a great chinese place, Mr. K's, and had lots of food and caught up. Friday was my last day of work! I went in for the morning and left around 2 to finish packing up my room and run some errands that we needed to do. That night we went to Blue Smoke, a bar-b-que place. I got some scallops that were good, so I was alright.

Then we had the craziness that is known as move out. So I have a ridiculous amount of stuff. Really, it's actually completely ridiculous. So we had movers come and help me get everything out, and I will not even admit how large of a storage unit I got. That took all Saturday morning. After that we got lunch at Bryant Park Grille, and I was so exhausted that I went to my parents hotel room and fell sound asleep for a few hours. Watched the end of the USA Ghana game. I was torn on who to cheer for, since I live in the USA and I am heading to Ghana in August, but in the end I cheered for the US. Sadly, as you all know, we lost. So now I am cheering for Ghana all the way! YAY GHANA!

Sunday we went to see another show. The family split into two groups: the guys went to see Million Dollar Quartet, and the girls went to see Promises, Promises (with Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth!). I LOVED our show - Sean was so funny, and Kristin is just phenomenally good. After that, I headed out to dinner with Laura, Chris, Lili, and Laura's family. I hadn't seen them in about a year, so it was great they were in town. We got dinner at STK in the meatpacking district, and afterward, Laura, Lili, Chris and I went to the Marriott to the View for drinks.

Now I am at the airport! I will try to write often with everything I am doing in Paris. Au revior!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fam in NYC + I Hate Visa Applications


Current Location: New York, NY

This blog is in two parts - one is the happy part of spending time with my family in NYC, and the second part is the wanting to tear my hair out dealing with Visa applications! SO I'm going to do the happy family in NYC part first, so that you can skip over my ranting in the second part if you don't care to read it.

So Saturday early myself, my mom, and my dad all flew into NYC! The flight was pretty good and we landed in NYC before 9 AM, so we had a long day ahead of us. Unfortunately I didn't sleep the night before so I was pretty sleepy. We took a cab over to Dana and Nate's apartment and spent the day exploring Brooklyn and Prospect Park. That evening, we went to Grimaldi's - best pizza in NYC, right by the Brooklyn Bridge! We had to wait in line for a while, but it was worth it! I subwayed it back up to COlumbia that night, and I slept VERY well. I was sleepy!

Sunday was Father's day! I went that morning and ran a few errands - Needed to get passport photos for my visa app (more on that later). Family came up to Columbia, and we went for a delicious brunch at Community! The rest of that day was for me time, which was needed.

Monday night we had a delicious dinner at Del Posto! I had some amazing fish, and it was really a great dinner. 3 bottles of wine between 5 people, so I would say a REALLY good dinner! Tuesday night (yesterday) we did drinks and the dessert buffet at the top of the Marriott in Times Square. It's a rotating restaurant, so you get a 360 degree view of the city! Meghan came as well as the family + Nate, so it was a really fun evening. Tonight we have tickets to see Memphis, tomorrow dinner with our grandparents, and friday dinner at Blue Smoke, so its going to end up being a really great week.

Now to the not so great part. I HATE Visa Applications. Seriously, so much can go wrong and it takes forever! On a bright note, my Ghana Visa has been approved so I am now for sure going!!! But man, what a process. On Monday I skipped work to go, and sat at the embassy for 2 hours before having my number called. Then, when it was called, I was told I needed a "Letter of Invitation." However, since I didn't have one, they said a copy of my school ID was fine. So I went and did that, and waited for another 15 minutes or so and then got my whole application accepted. Day 1 was done. Then Day 2. I was told my Visa would be ready for pick up at 2 PM the next day. So I put in a half day of work, and left at 1 to go downtown to pick up my Visa. So I get there, hand over my receipt with everyone else and wait for them to call my name. So they call EVERYONE but me... so I'm just sitting there waiting. Finally they come and tell me that I actually do need the letter of invitation. I'm just like seriously? So they tell me to come back with it Wednesday and I'll be fine. SO I got the letter, and I showed up today at 10 AM, the second they opened. And FINALLY, it was approved, and my passport is back in my possession. Frustrating process, but I'm so glad its done!

I've also had the joy of packing this week. I have the most annoying packing situation. 1, I am packing for my month in Paris. 2, I am packing for my month is Ghana, because there is about 24 hours between my 2 flights, and everything else, I am packing for storage. SO MUCH PACKING! I am getting a good amount done, so that is optomistic.

That's all for now. Got the show and 2 dinners this week, and then official move out on SAturday. Staying 2 nights on the couch in Brooklyn, and Monday is flying to Paris! I will try to update once more before Paris, and in Paris I plan on updating most days. Keep following and checking in for more posts!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back to NYC


Current Location: Jacksonville, FL

Hello world! I am currently sitting in a hotel in JAX before our flight back to NYC tomorrow morning at 6:15 AM. Not too excited about that early morning flight, but I'm ready to be back in the city, even if its only for about 10 days!

So the rest of my trip was fairly slow, but good. After my post on Wednesday, I ended up heading to the pool for a few hours for a tan - it was so freaking hot!! I kept having to get into the pool because I was dying from the heat. Tanning at 1 in Florida might not be the best idea. However, I got a nice tan in that short period, so I was pleased. That evening, I went for ice cream with my lovely friends Rachel and Lauren. It was really nice to see them, since it has been AGES since I've been home! We all chatted and caught up over some delicious Coldstone ice cream. After that I headed to Hooters with Lauren for some beers with her friends. I know, me at Hooters is a bit odd considering everyone goes there for wings, and I don't eat chicken, but we had a good time anyways. Her friends were all really funny. Finally, we drove back to Lauren's and walked over to Gator City for the night. A few friends came around, and I ran into Kim which was really fantastic! I hadn't seen her in ages, so once again, it was great to catch up. We ended the night with a brilliant idea to play retro power hour... smart Jenni. Needless to say, I woke up the next morning with a bit of a hangover :)

Thursday was a pretty fun day as well! After heading home, I changed and got ready to go to Satchel's with the high school band crew (Rachel, Lauren, Caraline, and Patrick) and Meg. Satchel's is only the best pizza place ever, so I was very happy to get to go there. I had recently seen Caraline and Patrick in NYC, but I hadn't seen Meg in a loooooooong time - maybe over a year! She will also be overseas this summer in Prague, so I'm hoping something might work out for us to meet up, but no plans have been made yet. After lunch, I headed home to spend some quality family time. Well not quite, but I needed to relax! My grandma came over for dinner again and my mom made delicious chinese! I called it an early night since I was tired from the night before

Today has been a lot of running around getting things done before leaving town. When I woke up, my mom and I headed out pretty quickly to run errands. We went to a outdoors store where I got some good pants for when I am in Ghana - I return to the states the day before I leave, so it was really important that I get everything I need before leaving for Paris. After that I went to the bookstore and got the 3rd Stieg Larson book, "The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest." It's a great series, and I can't wait to find out how it ends! We then went to the mall where I went to Victoria's Secret for a few things before going to Moe's for lunch. Moe's queso is the best! We returned home and got to packing for our upcoming trips. In the afternoon we went to say goodbye to Mama Doris. I'm going to miss her, I might not see her again until Christmas! After our goodbyes we stopped by Publix where I saw several of my old coworkers. After that, it was home to finish packing, and then we left for Jacksonville as soon as my dad finished his show!

So here I am now! We've got a busy week ahead with moving out of my dorm room and packing for my 2 trips. Here's hoping tomorrow's flight is good, and I will update again soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Home, Sweet Home!

Current Location: Gainesville, FL

Hello all! I am currently at home, and have been for some time, but things have been so busy that I haven't had time to post until now! It has been great being home and able to see some family and friends again and just relax. I finally have the ability to sleep in, which is one I had missed desperately.

So my journey home was on Saturday. I woke up at 5:15, and headed to the airport for my 8:15 flight. I got there with enough time to get some food and relax. It would have been perfect timing, except our flight was delayed because the TV wasn't working or something. Don't exactly know what the issue was, but after about 45 minutes, we were allowed to board and were on our way! The flight was good - take off was a little bumpy, but the flight and landing couldn't have been smoother. It's nice to have some good flights - I'm an awful flier and get very jumpy, so it calms me down when I've had some good flights.

So I get home Saturday, and it is HOT!!! The highs have been in the 90s every day, and the humidity is worse than I remember! Not living in Florida really messes with being used to the weather, so whenever I step outside, I'm almost dying. So both my parents pick me up at the airport - my dad came to surprise me since he had said he needed to do some work that morning, so that was a happy surprise. We made it home in good time and munched a bit around the house. My grandma, Mama Doris came over to the house and we had a delicious dinner of oysters, shrimp, and mashed potatoes! I've missed these home cooked meals!

Sunday was another fairly lazy day. I've been so exhausted without having much of a break since January. Spring break had a lot of traveling, and right when classes ended I headed to North Carolina for my sister's graduation, and when I got back to NYC, it was right back to working 35 hours a week. I was allowed to sleep in late, and most of the day was a bum around sort of day. However, that night I headed over to my friend Nick's parents house to watch the True Blood season premiere. One of his friends, Nichole, who I think I might have met once, also came, so it was a lot of fun. We had cherry and black vodka jello shots in honor of the show, which was pretty funny! It was a nice night and good to get out.

Monday was a fairly busy day for me with appointments. I woke up early that morning to go visit my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Mercer. He has always been great to me, and whenever I'm home, I try to visit and keep him updated on all the crazy things I've been up to. I had a nice chat with him, and then in the afternoon, I went to get my hair colored. Due to lots of pressure from my friends, I decided to go blonder again, even though the upkeep is a bit harder. I really like it a lot though, so I am pleased. Diana is the best at coloring hair, I am always happy with my results from her! I got some layers in my hair too. That night, I was feeling a bit of cabin fever, so I headed over to Nick's apartment, and we watched SuperBad. I hadn't seen that movie in forever, and I laughed a lot! Forgot how funny it was :)

Yesterday was a very special day - it was my Daddy's birthday!!! My parents continued to be nice and let me sleep in, which I really appreciated. We drove my dad to the station to drop him off for his show, and then my mom and I headed to Best Buy, where I got a new digital camera! My old camera had been having some issues with focusing and taking pictures, and with my travels this summer I needed a new one. It's super cute, its a Canon with 14 MP resolution. The pictures it takes are great, and I've gotta explore it to see all the special features it has. For dinner that night, we headed to Ember's a really great restaurant in Gainesville. We had a fantastic dinner for my dad's birthday - our waitress was named Jennifer as well! The food was really good, I got salmon, Mama Doris got coconut shrimp, my mom got a filet mignon, and my dad got a 22 oz porterhouse! That steak scared me!

Today is a chill day as well. I'm about to head to lunch with Mama Doris and might have some fun plans with Lauren tonight. We will see!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ready for my Mini Vacation!!

Current Location: Brooklyn, NY

So it's been a looooong week, but I am looking forward to a great week ahead of me!!! The week pretty much was me working. Today though, I had the fun of finding out how much fun it is to travel to Africa! Except not. I had to go and get 4 shots, one oral vaccine, and 2 prescriptions :( I didn't really like being treated like a human pin cushion. Thought it is nice to not have to worry about diseases! So currently my arms are really sore from the shots - but hopefully they will feel better tomorrow!

Speaking of tomorrow, I am taking an early morning flight home tomorrow morning! I am really excited to head back to Florida to see my family and friends back home. I haven't been home since January, so I hope to have a good week, and get a nice tan in the process! I haven't really had a vacation for a while - the last one was spring break, and I was so busy traveling I didn't get to relax too much. This week should be a nice break, and I'm looking forward to it!

Well I'm watching Old School now with Dana and Nate at their apartment, so I'm gonna stop writing and enjoy the movie! Though, I just found out that Locke from LOST is in the movie!!!!! He's Mitch's boss!!! I'm freaking out a bit lol.

Okay, that's it. Love to all!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Crazy Moving Weekend!


Current Location: New York, New York

Wow, what a weekend! You think the weekends are for relaxing, but this weekend was anything but! However, I did manage to have a fair amount of fun through all the craziness.

On Saturday, I had the lucky job of heading downtown to pick up Nate and Dana's apartment keys! The super wasn't working on Sunday, which was when they were arriving, so me, being the AMAZING sister which I am (hehehe) went down to get the keys. Well, with my luck, of course the 2-3 line was not running to Brooklyn. That means that I had to transfer trains. The train I was in had a weird messed up speaker (like half the subways in NYC) so I didn't hear that the 4/5 train was running on the 2-3 track for those Brooklyn stops. So because of that, I end up taking the D, and end up a mile away from the apartment, which I have to walk in the ridiculous heat. I love me a good walk, but in that heat, it was a little brutal. I've become since a wimp since leaving Florida! So I get there and get the keys, which goes pretty much like clockwork, and then I head uptown to meet up with Laura and Chris for some super depressing window shopping. I found my engagement ring, its only $400,000!!! I also am lusting over a rung form Van Cleef, its only $2100! Now I just need to find me a man to buy me all these pretty things!!! After that we grabbed some sushi, and headed back to the apartment to rest for a few hours before going out to the W hotel bar. Unfortunately, my foot started acting up again (I forgot to wear my brace) as well as I had a headache, so I hung out at the bar for about an hour, and then heading home. I felt bad that I was being so lame, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!

Then Sunday, I had to head down again to give Dana and Nate the keys, as well as to help them unload the U-haul and get settled. I am still a bit sore from all that lifting! A nice guy from the neighborhood came and helped us with some of the unloading which made it a bit easier. Then Nate and I had an epic adventure returning the U-Haul! At first they weren't going to take it and said we had to bring it to another location, but us smarties managed to trick them into keeping it. Win for us! We then walked back, and all collapsed at the apartment from exhaustion, and watched more episodes of Glee than I care to admit! I look forward to heading down later in the week once things are more settled and all the furniture has arrived and been put in place. it's a gorgeous apartment, and I think it will look great once they get unpacked!

Now I've got another basic week at work, working on postcards and other exciting projects. On Saturday though, I head back to Florida for a week to see my family and friends before my two overseas adventures this summer! I'm really looking forward to it, and it should lead to some interesting stories!