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Friday, August 15, 2008

My last DAYS in Egypt! (July 16-24)

Last week in Egypt wasn't very eventful... mostly because I had to finish up all my work and get ready for tests and projects and blah blah blah. One of the only things I did was take a day trip to Ein el Sukhna which is just a nice beach on the Red Sea in Egypt with the people I teach English for... that class is another story. I finished up class and I now know how teachers feel... very few of the students did all of their homework and it was all pretty bad, and I even caught some cheaters and had to turn them in. But everything turned out alright... I'm not sure exactly what my grades are yet but I think I did ok. And HOPEFULLY severy of these classes will transfer back and facilitate the completion of 4 majors in 4 years. Ummm I can't think much of what else went on in the last few days in Egypt.. it just wasnt that much. Oh! I did actually go visit the pyramids and the SPHINX because I never made it there before because I was TOOOOO busy. Pictures on facebook!! soon hopefully...

Aswan, Luxor, Abu Simbel and LOTS of old Egyptian stuff

So this trip took place July 10 to July 15 and most of it was in the form of a Nile River cruise aboard the Oberio Philae which was probably one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in. There were 3 floors and then the roof and a a pool. One of my favorite things about the boat though was that once when a bunch of us were standing on the top floor about 30 small canoes SWARMED our boat and they each had about 2 people in it and they were just throwing things they were selling at the boat. All kinds of things, from robes to papyrus to model pyramids, and some they threw in peoples rooms haha. And of course most of us didn't want to buy anything so another problem was getting all the stuff back to the little boats 3 levels down when there is wind haha... needless to say many things just ended up in the water. Also one girl on my boat bought something and I guess someone accidently threw it back, so she paid and didn't get anything... oops!

Ok to start from the start of the trip...
After class was over on the 10th we all ran back to our dorms to pack to be ready for the bus that was comping to pick us up to take us to the train station. Of course the train was about an hour late... but we ended up leaving by about 9 pm and the next morning we arrived at about 7 am to Luxor, Egypt (Wikipedia and Wikitravel).

In Luxor we visited the west bank which included The Valley of the Kings (Wikitravel and Wikipedia ) and Hatshepsut's Temple and then the east bank which included Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. I took LOTS of pictures but you'll have to check those out on facebook or ask me in person because of computer problems I can't but them up on here...

After Luxor we sailed to Edfu to see the Horus temple and to Kom Ombo to see the Temple of Kom Ombo.

After Kom Ombo we sailed to Aswan to see the Philae temple and then the Aswan High Dam
and it was about 115 degrees out... so I didn't see it for very long haha.

And then after all that we took a 2 am bus to Abu Simbel which is less than 10 miles from Sudan!

And then after alllllll of this was over we took a plane from Luxor to Cairo via Aswan and got back pretty late, but not late enough that we didn't have class the next day :(

The whole trip was really fun. I got to see almost all of the most important ancient Egyptian monuments and temples. Some of them though were actually moved to new locations... I'm not exactly sure how they moved giant temples the size of skyscarpers though.... because when they created the Aswan dam in the 60s it flooded a large area to create a man made lake... which in turn would flood many of the ancient temples, so they just moved them to new areas.

And that was my final trip within Egypt... any questions?

Last posts?!?!?!?!?

Hmm.... today is August 14 and I haven't written in this for a while.... lots to cover... my last trip in Egypt to Aswan, Luxor, and Abu Simbel, my last weeks in Egypt, my desert adventure to LEBANON, SYRIA, JORDAN, and ISRAEL (and a little more in Egypt)... all up until now in Madrid, Spain awaiting for August 20 to arrive so I am finally come back home after my year abroad... Instead of making one big long post, I'm gonna break it up into smaller ones... So enjoy because now that I am coming home, this blog may be finished (at least for a while) because I have to finish my studies! Maybe I'll talk more about that later...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

NEW plans

I havent updated from my last time in Egypt... ill get around to that some other time

but for now I am in BEIRUT, Lebanon... so far there are no problems here... we were going to only stay here for 2 nights and then head to Aleppo, Syria and then to Damascus. But since there is a concert on Sunday for MIKA which we all love, we decided to stay in Lebanon and travel outside of Beirut to other cities. We met a really nice taxi driver and he is actually going to be our personal driver for the next few days and take us to some other places in Lebanon and ill put those here later.

So we are here in BEIRUT until July 28 and then we will take a taxi to Damascus, Syria. As of now we will stay there for 2 or 3 nights. After that we will head by bus to Amman, Jordan and then to Petra and Aqaba for a few nights. On August 2 (in shaa allah) we will take a Taxi to Jerusalem and start our Israeli adventures... and then on August 8 we will travel back to Cairo on a realllly long bus ride. and then on August 10 ill fly to Spain for 10 days then home!

ok gotta go!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

First week of EGYPT!

June 20, 2008
So I have been in Egypt a little over a two weeks now and I LOVE IT here. Its a breath of fresh air getting away from Asia for a while haha. The airplane rides here went smoothly. Taipei to Hong Kong was good, the only problem is they didn't transfer my bags automatically at Hong Kong. I hung out in Hong Kong for about 4 or 5 hours... but I forgot that HK (and Dubai) us the UK style plug, and I packed my adapter so I couldn't watch any of my movies I had downloaded for the trip. So I tried to nap/read until my plane came. My flight to Dubai went well, the food on Emirates air was amaaaaazzzzing and the service was really good too. And I arrived to Dubai about 430 AM and hung out in the airport and waited in line for a long time to use one of the free computers because some people wouldnt get off them. My flight to Cairo went smoothly too and I arrived about noon.

Egypt and Cairo info:

I got my luggage, luckily it all came no problem, and headed out to go through customs. It took me a while to figure out where to get the visa... but once I got that I went out and found my driver and he took me to my dorm. My roommate wasn't here... and there weren't very many people here actually so I just kinda unpacked my stuff and went outside to walk around the area for a bit and find food. I tried to stay up as late as I could because I heard that is good for the first night when dealing with jet lag... and then I made it to about 10 pm and went to bed. The next day I slept in pretty late then unpacked and went out some more to walk around and find food. And then later on my roommate showed up and I went out with him and another guy to have dinner and "drink" shisha and have tea at a market.
The dorms are ok, I am in a 3 person room with only 2 people, so we have a bit more space. Everything in it is really old, and we have some REALLY loud arabs in the room next door who like to blast their music LOUDLY between 11 pm and 4 am. I don't know whats gonna happen with that. The dorms and the school have a lot of security. At all the entrances there are metal detectors and guards who usually check through all of your bags before you can get in.
Class started Sunday, but they didn't feel the need to let us know they changed the times of our classes until EVERYONE was there, so we basically had a couple of hours to hang around and then our classes started. Here is my schedule
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Spoken Egyptian Arabic 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Media Arabic 105-205
Quran Class 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Spoken Egyptian Arabic 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Quran Class 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Media Arabic 1130-100

Basicaly Monday's suck and the rest of the week isn't too bad. All my teachers are amazing (some a little heavy on the homework though) except my Media Arabic teacher that kinda sucks. The first week of class went well, there was a little shuffling of classes, but for the most part it went smoothly. The school here is really unorganized (thats Egypt as a whole I guess), the classrooms are a problem, and no one ever knows anything, but I'm used to that after China I guess.

The first full weekend in Egypt we took a trip to Alexandria. Here is some info:

We took a bus to Alexandria from Cairo... took about 3 or 4 hours, luckily it had A/C. I didn't notice this until later but they had security guards on our buses, and from what other people said they usually put security guards or even police with AK-47s on buses if there are foreigners. We spent 2 nights there in a REALLY nice hotel. The school must have some kind of deal with the hotel because the posted rates are $280 a night and our whole trip total was $150. We visited some things you can see on the link to wikitravel. We went to the Citadel, the Library, the Roman Catacombs, Pompey's Pillar, and Montazza palace. Alexandra was a bit more conservative that Cairo I think. I saw a lot more mostly or completely covered women (not even slits or holes for their eyes). It also seemed to me a bit more poor and run down that Cairo, but with a lot of beaches. We went back on Saturday and then I had class on Sunday.
This week of class went by well, I had my first test and lots and lots of homework. This weekend we are going to Sharm el Sheikh for 3 nights. Here is info:

I'll put later what I am going to do there.

So thats my stay so far in Egypt! Leave a comment!

Last days in Taiwan...

June 5, 2008 (its really June 14 but i forgot to write in this before i left taiwan)
Our last trip we took together in Taiwan was fun. I was gonna write about it right after it was over but I kept putting it off and now its like 3 weeks after... oops. But it was a really great 2 night trip. The first day we went to Ling Jiu Mountain which is a Buddhist monastery and we had a tour and met the founding monk who lived in a cave on that mountain by himself for 2 years fasting and meditating. After that 2 years was over he founded the monastery there. It was really nice and they had their free vegetarian lunch for all of us which was also very good. After that we went to the beach... but since it kept pouring rain and thundering and lightning I didn't go in the water. After spending some time there we headed to our hostel that was pretty far away which I was excited for since it had its own hot springs. But since we spent too much time at the beach we arrived at 1030 and they closed them at 11 :( so we only got to spend a few minutes in it. So instead of just going to sleep me, Phil, Zoe, and her boyfriend played mah johng all night (for money of course) and I won the most, 70 Taiwan dollars! (thats only about $2.10 US dollars haha) but it was fun.

The next day we had to get up early and head to the water rafting place. I was really excited for it cuz I have never done anything like that before. But I was also just a little worried to. So we got there and had a little training and got some life jackets and helmets and went out to the boats. In my boat it was Phil, Alyssa, Cala, Olivia, Mr. Zhang and Dan. It was pretty slow going at first... the water was slow and we were just paddling, and the life guards in their boats kept splashing us and then pushing us back in line with the others. There were a lot of boats, maybe 50 or so. Every once in a while we would get to some rapids and it would go a lot quicker and we had to dodge rocks and things but then it would go back to slower water. And then there was one part of the river where the rapids were a bit bigger and faster... few more rocks... ect and we saw a boat stuck on a rock ahead and then another one run into them and get stuck and then we were heading towards them. And we had been doing this for a couple hours now and had hit a lot of other boats so I wasn't worried or anything... and then we hit the boat and ours decided to flip over and throw us all into the water and come on top of us. And so I was in the water and could come up because the boat was on top of us. So then I tried to go down into the water a little deep so I could get out from underneath the boats, but the water was really fast and deep and there were lots of rocks everywhere and I was flying down the river coming up barely enough to just get a breath of air and then going back under. And then finally one of the life guard boats pulled me into their boat. And then we got everyone else and flipped our boat over and got into it and then I realized I lost the helmet that was wearing and my glasses :(
So we finished up the boat trip with no more problems and then left to go to our hostel for that night. But before we got there we stopped at a glasses store and I got some contacts to last me until I could get some new glasses. So basically we were all really tired so when we got to the hostel we just crashed. The next morning we got up early and left to go see Taroko gorge which is basically a giant grand-canyon-esque kinda thing that was nice, and then headed back to Taipei stopping at some sight seeing points on the way back. And then when we got back we basically had a week left to finish our projects... which I hadn't really started. But it went surprisingly well. I wrote mine about the declining use of Taiwanese language among the people of Taiwan... if you wanna read my paper just ask and I'll send it to you :p and basically I packed up and left Taiwan on June 5. I am really happy I had a chance to go to Taiwan and improve my Chinese a lot more, I guess it didn't turn out so bad after all not getting into Egypt last semester. It will be nice to leave Taiwan I think but I'll probably start missing it after a week or two... especially the food haha.

Friday, May 23, 2008

End of classes and Two weeks left in Taiwan

May 23, 2008

Here are my final flight plans:
Taiwan to Egypt June 5 and 6
Egypt to Madrid July 29
Madrid to Chicago August 20... and then thats it!

So nothing much has happened since my miderms which is true haha so there was nothing much to write about. But I just took my finals yesterday soooo I am DONE with Chinese for a little while, I just hope I don't forget too much before I make it back to IU. One day I went to the mountains to pick some lilies because thats what it is famous for. Those pictures will go up eventually but I am having computer problems so I don't know when. One weekend we had a show put on by all the Chinese classes and I had to act in a little skit for it. The night before though I got offered a chance to be on a TV show, so as soon as the show was over I had to hop in a taxi over the TV station. That was about all the excitement I had in the past few weeks except for learning Chinese. Yesterday and Today I had my Chinese and Taiwanese finals and they weren't that bad. The last thing I have to do here is finish my research project then I am done. Tomorrow we are going on a weekend trip and I'll write about that before I leave Taiwan.

As for Egypt I am planning on arriving on June 6 and I will be there until July 29. Right now i dont know much about what I am doing there except I am doing intensive Arabic and will have about 20 hours a week of class and hopefully a few trips around Egypt. I don't know if I'll have any time to travel on my own though because the class is so intensive. On July 29 I'm flying to Madrid to stay will a friend for three weeks. I also dont really know what im gonna be doing there as of yet but I have been using my money saved from translating and tutoring to spend while I'm there. Maybe I'll get a chance to visit a couple other countries even. After that I am coming home to the US on August 20. I am going to try and get a quick 2 or 3 day roadtrip with my friends to Cedar Point and then be back to IU in time to start in the fall.... so any comments??

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Thailand and Egypt and Midterms

April 12, 2008

I seem to not remember to write on this very often in Taiwan... But a lot has happened in the month since my birthday. Up until March 28, there wasn't anything out of the ordinary that happened, just normal going to class and tutoring English on Fridays at the high school. However on March 28 I went on my trip to Thailand. I had to do a lot of stuff for my classes in advance the week before I left so it was kinda stressful but one I was in the air to Thailand it all melted away. I arrived to Bangkok at about 1030 at night and my friend picked me up at the airport. After that we went out and had dinner and he introduced me to all his Thailand friends and we all went out. Then next day all of us took a 3 hour drive to the south of Thailand and then hopped on a speedboat to an island where we stayed in a bungalow for about 6 days. Most of the time there we just hung out on the beach and drank from coconuts and had massages, and then at night we would eat dinner on the beach next to the water. It was really nice but there were a lot of European tourists there. After we were done at the beach we headed back to Bangkok where we spent the rest of the time around town. I came back to Taiwan on April 7 at night and had to go to class the next day. The next day I felt kinda sick in class and it got pretty bad by the time night came around so I thought it might be malaria or something so I planned on missing more class the next day, even though I had a midterm the day after, to go to the doctor. I felt better in the morning when I got up to go to the doctor but I went anyways just in case. He asked my symptoms and I told him and then he gave me 4 different types of pills haha. I heard they like to over prescribe pills here... So then the next day I took my midterm and I don't think I did very well because I didn't get to study much because I missed class and was sick. At least the grades don't transfer back to IU haha. And the next day they didn't have class to go on a field trip somewhere but I couldn't go because I had to go teach English.

Also the day I got back from Thailand I got an e-mail from Egypt saying that I got on the waiting list again and I was really upset about it and sent a lot of e-mails and had my dad call too because I couldn't call from here. I was also spending a lot of time trying to find something to do with my time over the summer because they wait so long to let us know if we are in the program or not in Egypt but then they sent me an e-mail that said I was moved from the waiting list and I am now accepted. So it is official now that I am going to be in Cairo, Egypt to study Arabic at the Arabic Language Institute at the American University of Cairo from June 7 until July 27. And then after that who knows what? Just as long as I'm back at school in time to start class in September. I am getting really excited to start again at IU, I just picked out my classes last week but I am still a little iffy on some of them because I don't know if some classes will transfer and what classes I will test into when I get back, but we will just have to see.

Also I am starting a private tutoring job once a week at a Taiwanese family's home which should be fun. And I may start a thesis correcting/editing job for all the Taiwanese students here that have to write a thesis in English because most of them cant write it very well and they need a lot of correcting. So we will see how that works out.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First week of class (and my birthday)

March 11, 2007

So the first week of class went by and it wasn't that bad. We kinda had a lot of homework but I think once I get used to it then it will be fine. I am the only American in my class though... There are 2 koreans, 2 japanese, a French, a Belgian, a Lithuanian, and an Argentinian haha. Last week and this week are probably going to be the easiest two weeks because starting next Monday I start a class on Taiwanese which should be fun and an Advanced Chinese Composition class which should also be fun. I also have to meet with 2 tutors every week... so basically lots of work ahead. I didn't do much last week though except work on my homework and lose my digital camera (oops...) and visit the National Palace museum and saw the famous cabbage made out of jade. So yesterday was my birthday and I had a few nice surprises. First my 3 roommates gave me something I really liked... one of them, Perry, Drew me and put it on a card and then the back they each wrote me a message saying happy birthday and stuff. And then there was a CD inside, and on the CD all three of them sang happy birthday in English and Chinese and sang "Hey Drew" to the tune of Hey Jude and made up new lyrics on it haha. I put it on my iPod and made all my friends listen to it the next day. So I got up and went to class and it was normal and they sang happy birthday, but then a Japanese girl brought these two reallllllly good cakes to class so that was nice and they got me a card. And then I went to the CIEE office here to buy my ticket to Thailand (I'm going to Thailand!!!!) and all the people on my program were in there and all of my new Taiwanese friends too. I kinda knew about it though because they forgot to take my name out of the e-mail haha but it was still nice. They sang happy birthday to me twice and it was embarrassing and then we ate a lot of pie mmmmm. I also got some gifts from people that I really liked especially a beer from Jimmy, a papaya milk from Philip, some candy and a spicy snack from Arial, a Buddha from Elise, and a book that I lOOOOOOVE from xiao Joyce about Chinese Idioms. After that I took a quick nap and got a haircut (A LOT more expensive than china and it looks terrible :( ) and then I went to an all you can eat hot pot restaurant with the japanese girl who brought the cakes, the 2 koreans and my Chinese teacher and it was reallllly really really good. By far the best meal I have had here. It might have something to do with the all you can eat hagen daas ice cream mmmmmm. And then after that me and some friends hung out for a few hours and just talked. And then today I had a test haha, we will see how that goes later I guess... So now what I have to think about is finding a new digital camera and planning my trip to Thailand from March 28 to April 7. Also most of my pictures are up so probably in the next post I will put all the links so you can go to them and see.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wow I haven't written on here for a while... hopeuflly I'll get back into the habit soon

February 25, 2008 in Taipei, Taiwan

So I have neglected to write in this for a month... both because I have been really busy and because I forgot about it haha. So I'll run through the last month really quickly.
After Dublin I went back to Spain for a week to get my Taiwan visa, besides a couple bumps there was no problem getting it and I just feel more in love with Madrid and Spain. Then on January 31st me and Aliyah jetted off to Berlin for two nights. Lucky for us (sarcasm) they had a PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION STRIKE for only the 2 days we were there, which means we had to take taxis which cost a lot. After having fun trapsing around Berlin for a bit we headed off on to Athens, Greece. Our hostel was basically empty so that was kinda boring but we got to see all the fun things like Zeus's Temple and the Acropolis, and also eat some good gyros haha. Then we took a 20+ hour train to Istanbul where we stayed the longest of our trip. The hostel was fun and we met a lot of nice people there. We went all over Istanbul, including the asian side (its on two continents). We went to a lot of bazaaars and saw mosques. We were even allowed into one of them so I could finally see what it is like. After that we took a plane to really really really expensive London. We took the tour bus cuz we had only one day there and wanted to see as much as possible and had fish and chips for dinner. Then we headed back to Madrid and I spent my last night there and headed home via Dublin the next day. My mom and dad picked me up at the airport and we went to dinner. I spent the next couple days in my parents in Crown Point and then headed to Depauw for a night with Carly and then to IU to see all my friends there for a few days. I then came home and packed and headed to Chicago for my flight to LA where I had to change planes in Taiwan. I had to wait about 5 hours in the LA airport, it wasn't that bad. I then got on the extremely long flight to Taiwan at 1130 at night and LUCKILY I got 4 seats to my self so I was able to actually lay down across them all and sleep. Also the service was very nice and I get Malaysia Airlines an A+ and I think they are my favorite now. I was picked up at the airport by a couple of students and then we came back and I was showed my room and everything.

So my room is a normal size room with 4 beds up in the air and a desk space underneath each of them... so far my roommates are pretty nice so no problem there. The one problem is that my school here is on a mountain... and they decided the male dorms should be at the top. So there is actually a bus that runs from the top to the bottom but it only goes until 11 and and sometimes it doesn't go all the way to the top so I still have to walk a lot which is going to be A LOT OF FUN when it starts getting really really really really hot and humid outside. So far I haven't started classes yet but I did take the placement test today so we will see in a few days how I did on that. So far though I am LOVING Taiwan so much better than China. Its a bit more expensive but a much better experience. Also So far this program is much much much better than my program in China, and the students here are a lot better too and I have already made at least 10 new taiwanese friends that will help me out with my Chinese a lot...
So thats all I have for now, once I get all my pictures posted (Krakow, Prague, Dublin, Madrid, Berlin, Greece, Istanbul, London, IU, Taiwan...) I'll put the links up here that you can see them at. Bye for now

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Prague ... and Dublin

January 21, 2007 in Dublin

All in all I think I enjoyed Prague the most so far of any of the places I have been. The city is amazing, I have never seen a place like it before. It's definitely on the list of places I have to go back to. I also made a TON of new friends that I will probably never see again but at least we are all friends on facebook haha. I went to an ice hockey game when I was there too with some of them haha. It was kinda long though, but it was still fun to go see it in Prague. I also went to the castle with one of my roommates and we saw everything there before we went to the game. On my last day there I walked around town by myself because the Aussies left, and just looked at all the buildings and how beautiful the city was. I was actually quite sad to leave all of them but at the last minute I found out that a group of French people I made friends with and two Irish blokes were on the same flight as me! So we sat by each other and then parted at the airport and I made my way to my hostel.

I got to my hostel easily enough, luckily I had a few euros to get a bus ticket because NONE of the atms worked at the airport! I walked allll over the airport and tried every single one haha. So I checked in my hostel but they are jerks and wouldn't let me go to my room because all the rooms are closed from 11am - 230pm... just so they can clean them. I don't see why I can't even get in my room to set my bag down... but nope they said no. Also yesterday I left my umbrella in the room and they wouldn't let me get that either. This hostel suuuuucks. They also charge you a euro per day to use a locker and kick you out of the hang out area at 11 and the showers suck. I guess that is why this place was the cheapest one haha. At least tomorrow is my last night and I wont have to deal with them all much longer. The people here are lame too, none of them want to make friends like in Prague and Krakow. So I walked around and saw things by myself because I couldn't find anyone else to go with. The first night I stayed in and rested because I was tired from the traveling. Then the next day I went to The Hugh Lane Gallery and saw all the artwork there, what mainly grabbed my eye were the impressionist paintings.

After that I headed to the river and walked along it to Phoenix Park and walked around there for a while. And by the time I left it was getting dark and cold and rainy so I headed back to the hostel. Then next morning I woke up extra early (730) so I could check out the free breakfast knowing in advance it would probably suck because this place is like that in general. So I got up at 730 (before the sun was up) like they said it started then... but thats when the guy starts putting everything out, not when breakfast starts. So I had to hang around for 20 minutes while he set out creepy bread, butter, and jam... thats it. My last hostel had bread, butter, jam, nutella, peanut butter, some spread I didn't know what it was, hard boiled eggs, 4 kinds of cereal, 2 kinds of juices, milk, coffee, croissants and other things I can't remember... and that place was a lot cheaper that here... oh well, I guess this is why Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. lol So I went back to sleep until the sun came up and then I went out and got a 10 euro haircut from a Polish woman and it actually looks pretty good. And then I headed to The National Galleries... but it was closed, just my luck. After that I head to The National Museum that was open and saw all the artwork there ranging in dates from 1300s to the 1900s which was really nice. And after that I headed to St. Patrick's Cathedral to see if I could get in before it closed... but I didn't haha. So I just saw the outside of it which was still nice. And then I started the LOOOOOOOOOONG trek back to the hostel in the dark where I am now. And tomorrow... I haven't decided what to do yet haha, and then Wednesday I'm off to Madrid again!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Train to PRAGUE

January 17, 2008 in PRAGUE

So I got to the train about an hour early just to be safe and it was there so I got on and the conductor showed me to my room which was a looooot nicer than I thought it would be. It was a small room with 2 beds and and a sink and luckily there was a plug so I watched "Cidade de Deus" before I went to sleep. But as I soon found out, it wasn't so easy to sleep on a train so I didn't sleep much and the train arrived at 645 am in Prague. I wandered around the station in search of an ATM and I finally found one but it gave me a 2000 crown bill and I had to go find change now so I could buy a 17 crown bus ticket haha. After that I got the bus and headed to the hostel. I got there at like 730 and luckily they let me check in cuz I just went right back to bed. Then I went on a walking tour with 2 of my australian roommates and saw the whole city which is really nice and now one of my favorites. Then I had a quick nap and hung out in the bar in the basement of the hostel with everyone here and made a hundred new friends. I met people from Argentina, Brazil, France, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, England and probably a bunch of others I don't know. I also got to practice Portuguese, Spanish, and French with them all haha. I'm about to head out and explore the city, so thats about it for now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time to leave Poland

Tuesday January 15, 2008

Its 730 pm and my train for Prague leaves in about 3 hours. I'm a bit worried because I hear the station is kinda complicated and there might not be very many English speakers on hand to ask questions. But next time I write I'll let you know how it went haha.

Yesterday I got up early and headed towards the old Jewish section of town called Kazimierz after a king a long time ago that said all the Jews can come live in Poland. First I went to an old synagogue that is no longer in use, because there aren't very many Jews left, that was transferred into a museum about Jews in Poland before WWII. After that I headed to a museum that had 3 exhibits (Galicia Jewish Museum click here), one about resistance movements by Jews during WWII in Krakow and the other 2 were about what has basically happened to things such as synagogues and Jewish cemeteries and towns since WWII. So basically it was as depressing as the concentration camps where. I never thought about it before but there are synagogues and other places that mainly Jews used all over Europe that were basically abandoned after WWII because there was no one left to use them. Theses exhibits focused on Poland and showed a lot of pictures of synagogues that have for the most part been abandoned all over Poland. It also showed areas where there were Jewish cemeteries but most had little or no markings because the Nazi's took all the gravestones and used them to pave roads and sidewalks. There was also a monument I couldn't find that my friend was talking about that would have been pretty nice to see, she said it was a bunch of empty chairs facing the same directions. Oh well, there is always next time. I had also tried to go to Wawel Hill where they have a castle and a cathedral but it was closed so I went today instead. So I was about about the city for about 6 or 7 hours and by that time I was getting realllllly cold so I came back for a rest and then went out with my new friends that I made here.

Today I slept in and then went to Wawel Hill where they have a castle where the kings of Poland lived and also a cathedral where they have bodies and remains of kings of Poland and other important people and where all the kings coronations were held. I spent a few hours there and then walked around the city until I got too cold and had to go back to the hostel to warm up and rest before my train to Prague.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monaco, Oslo, and Auschwitz

from top to bottom

random contemporary art in Oslo
street shot of Oslo
shot of Oslo from a hill
Auschwitz gas chamber
Auschwitz entrance gate that says "work makes you free"
sign in Aix-en-provence commemorating the Americans liberating the city in WWII

Sunday January 13, 2008 from Krakow, Poland

So I'm in POLAND right now but I'll get to that in a minute. Me and Phil ended up going to Monaco for a day trip for fun which was country 11 for me over-all and number 7 on this trip. We took the bus to Nice which was kinda too expensive and then we hopped on a bus for Monaco. We got there and walked around for a while but it was really quiet and all that there was were a lot of really nice, expensive cars and buildings and rich people and a lot of really expensive shops. So me and Phil decided to go back to France and spend some time in Nice because its more interesting and cheaper (but still expensive). BUT we couldn't figure out how the buses worked to get back so we ended up finding a train to Nice for 3.4 euros so we just took that and as soon as we bought the ticket we found our bus hahaha. But the train didn't leave for a while so by the time we got back to Nice we had to basically just hop back on our bus to Aix. Overall my stay in France was nice, I had a nice relaxing time before my next big leg of traveling started.

On Thursday me and Phil packed up and headed on the bus to Marseilles to catch our realllly cheap flight to Oslo, Norway. We got to the airport in Oslo and the bought really expensive tickets to get to the city because the airport is actually much father away, like 120 km. Once we finally got to the city it was about 10 pm and really cold and rainy and wet. So me and Phil had to walk around for a long time and look for our hostel and then we finally found it without taking a really expensive taxi. We got there just in time because they close the front desk at 1130 and checked in and headed up to our rooms. To our surprise there was someone yelling in the room so I knocked and opened the door and there was just a some girl in there alone and she seemed really surprised that we were there so she went down to the desk to complain because she thought only girls would be in that room. (i guess she is an actress and she was practicing her lines by yelling them haha)But she ended up being wrong and came back and was just really jerky for the time we were there. Me and Phil on the first day went to the museum for the Norwegian Resistance during WWII and some art museums. I got to see a version of "Scream" which I happen to like a lot and a lot of other paintings and some crazy things at the contemporary art museum. We had lunch at burger king to save some money cuz I thought it would be cheap, but no... it was about 20 dollars. Norway is expensive! Don't go unless you really want to or have to! A bottle of coke cost over 4 dollars, a bottle of water is about 4 dollars. It costs over 4 dollars per ride on the metro or the bus, a super cheap meal if you can find one starts at maybe 16 to 20 dollars and go much much higher. So we basically didn't do anything Friday night because it would cost so much to go out, so we watched some movies on my computer. On Saturday we got up and went to the national museum and saw another version of Scream and a lot of other paintings and then we headed to the bus station to catch the bus to the airport so I could go to Poland and Phil could get back to France.

I left Phil at the airport and went through passport control and got a stamp for leaving Norway yay and then went and got on my Wizzair flight to Katowice airport. The flight got in a bit early and I found my shuttle bus to Krakow and we left about 45 minutes later and got to Krakow at about 945 at night. I knew where I was on the map and I knew where I was going and everything... but I still just couldn't seem to find my way to the hostel, I walked around for a while but I finally gave up and took a taxi (9 zloty or about $3.50) to the street it is on, which was really close. I got to my hostel then and checked in and everything and I really like it. They have a few big rooms, maybe 6 or something I don't even know, and then 4 bathrooms with showers, a kitchen, a common room and free wifi and its open 24 hours which is also a plus. So far everyone here is really nice but not to talkative with me. Most of the people here are Australians and maybe a couple of Americans. I just took a shower and stayed in last night because I was exhausted from traveling and I had to get up early to go visit Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.

I got up early and had free breakfast then headed to the tourbus on the hour bus ride to the camps. We had an English speaking tourguide and the whole thing took about 4 hours. It was realllly depressing, kinda like I felt after I visited Hiroshima in Japan. They showed HUGE rooms full of things like glasses and brushes adn clothes they just took from the Jews before they killed them. They also showed things like hair they shaved off of women to make socks and the gas and torture chambers and everything. I took a lot of pictures but not of any of the stuff in the buildings because they didn't allow it. We also went to Birkenau which was Auschwitz II where they murdered most of the people, but it was mostly destroyed from the war whereas Auschwitz was kept up. We were kinda rushed through by the tour guide lady, I would have like to mull around a lot longer and just look at everything, maybe sometime in the future I can come back and visit it again.

Also... luckily while I was in the midst of writing this I got an e-mail from my Taiwan program CIEE saying that IU selected me for $1000 dollar scholarship and sent it off to CIEE. This is really surprising because I have no clue what it is from or what it is for, but it will sure help out A LOT with all the random expenses, especially the airfare. So thanks to whoever gave me or helped me get this scholarship!! I really appreciate it! Tomorrow I am getting up a bit early to head out and visit all the places I have in my book and then I'll be back to write about them tomorrow maybe and hopefully add some pictures :o)


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Frace, Final Trip Plans, and PICTURES from Taiwan to Morocco finally

January 8, 2008, Aix-en-provence, France

So I have been in France now for a few days with Phil. It's just a tiny little city in the south of France with small winding stone streets and little shops with all the apartments on the above the shops. Phil's apt is like this, its kinda small but its got a lot of character I guess haha. It has 2 bedrooms and a bathroom and a kitchen/living room and there are 3 people living here. Its really nice here but its already more expensive than Madrid I'm noticing and from what I hear you get really sick of it being so small after a while. Also, tomorrow we MAY try and do a spontaneous trip to Monaco which would also be fun, and then we leave Thursday evening for Oslo, Norway :o) And after that I'm off on my own for a week and a half.

Me and Aliyah also finally finalized our trip plans for the last leg of my trip, here they are;

January 31 fly from Madrid to Berlin and stay in Berlin for 2 nights
January 2 fly from Berlin to Athens and stay in Athens for 3 nights
January 4 or 5 HOPEFULLY have no problems getting a train to Istanbul and stay there for a few nights
January 8 fly to London and stay in London for 2 nights
January 10 fly to Madrid
January 11 fly home to Chicago via Dublin

also I finally got my pictures all uploaded, just click on the link to go to them

Taiwan 1
Taiwan 2
Taiwan 3
Manila 1
Manila 2
Thanksgiving Chinese Style
Shanghai, China
Post China/European Adventures 1 (Russia?, Madrid, Barcelona, Marrakesh)

I'll have a chance to post all my France, Poland, Czech Republic, and Dublin pictures after January 23 when I go back to Madrid for a week to get my Taiwan VISA... hopefully no problems there...
leave a comment!!!


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I havent written on here for a while... but a lot has happned!

January 1, 2007 in Barcelona, Spain

I meant to write on this once more before I left China but I slept through my alarm again and didn't wake up with enough time to write on it. But I wanted to talk about my last few days and my finals and what I did. My sociology final went terribly... I might have done really bad on it but I think everyone did so it shouldn't be bad then because if everyone does bad then they will curve it. But the test was imposssssible to do. My chinese final wasnt bad, I think I'll end up with an A or an A- in the class. I packed everything and cut my stuff down to one suitcase and left China early in the morning for Moscow, Russia. I am going to miss China a lot (especially the prices!!) Also even though my roommates got on my nerves at times I'll miss them too. I learned a lot more Chinese than I thought I did though so thats also nice.

I flew to Moscow no problem and got through to my next flight to Madrid which was also no problem except that it was delayed an hour or so. They Russians kinda scared my though, even the stewardesses were mean. But I got to Madrid a bit late and Aliyah and James met me at the airport without Phil becuase he missed his flight haha. We all went to the hostel and had a few days in Madrid to hang out and walk around and we also made Christmas Eve dinner which was also rrealllllllyyy good.

Then we flew to Morocco on Christmas day also with no problems. I LOOOVE Morocco. Since so many europeans go there it has basically been turned into a turist city though so there were high prices and lots of people trying to rip us off. We stayed in a really nice 2 bedroom apt a bit away from the city, but we just hopped on the bus to get into the city. I didn't get to practice Arabic as much as I wanted to though becuase most of them didn't understand me and they all speak French and a little bit of English so I just stuck with the French which kinda made me go crazy after a while because of all the langauges. When I got to Spain it was soooo hard to switch my mind out of Chinese and into Spanish but then once I started getting used to the Spanish I had to switch to French, and then once I started getting used to the French I had to switch back to Spanish haha. We went to the famous square Djemma al-fna in Morocco where they have snake charmers and monkies and clown things and lots and lots of food and teas and juices and nuts and fruits and tradtional moroccon things. We also got to ride camels while we were there which was also one of the main goals of our trip. I tried to write on my blog while I was there but it was blocked or something and I couldn't get to it. It was sad leaving Marrakesh but I know some day I will go back there because there is still so much left to see.

On December 30 we flew to Girona, Spain and then caught a bus to Barcelona and wandered aruond the city until we found our hostel which is on the one of the main streets of Barcelona, so its a really nice location. Barcelona so far is a lot better than Madrid, but they don't speak Spanish much here so sometimes I don't know if I should try and speak Spanish or use English, but a lot of people I have met here so far speak English pretty well.

So tonight is our last night in Barcelona and we are off to Madrid again tomorrow for a few days. Ill try to go ahead and update this sometimes before I head off to France with Phil but if not I'll be sure to do it while I am in France. Also I have not head back from Egypt people so I don't know what is going on with that yet. Leave a comment!!