December 13, 2011

This is it, Communications Law!

Google. The Crib Sheet the Professor gave us. Four practice tests for Comm Law, and four answer sheets of uncertain trustworthiness. A single black pen.
It's going to be a long night.

Something like Karma

I have this basic, fuzzy idea of karma that I try to let guide my life. It's like this - If I am good at a class, I'll do everything I can to help the others. And for every class like that, there's a class or two where I'm the one mooching off the more experienced/more proactive/smarter students. If someone comes to my country, I'll go out of my way to help them out, make them feel welcome. And for every time someone bothers to come to Missouri, I couchsurf in some foreign city. Maybe I'm just really, really lucky, but so far the formula is working out great for me! :) It's easy to be kind, helpful, and generous when you yourself are drowning in good friends and good fortune!

December 10, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

This is the hardest semester I've ever had for finals week. I'm relieved now that Kevin and I had to cancel our road trip.

I've got journalism projects, however interesting, I have tons of little and less little things to do for Understanding Audiences, I actually have to study for two exams (History of Spanish and Communications Law), and a paper to do for my Spanish literature class. I've still got a little bit of tutoring and a handful of social commitments. Also, I need to pack everything up and get it to the lake house.


December 05, 2011

Max, Finals, New Boots, Snow, and Interview

1.) Max Heiliger from Germany visited me during the last week. We met while I was studying in Bonn, and now he's studying up in Kalamazoo Michigan. He came down to Missouri on - believe it or not - a real American train! I had to find the Amtrak station in St. Louis for the first time in my life, and it didn't even kill me. Despite a few misadventures (and even those were sort of fun), we had good times at the lake, city museum, zoo, etc!

2.) Now that Max is back in Kalamazoo, I need to buckle down and work. Between this week and next, I have to do my multimedia project, finish at least one last good story for the Missourian, work one more G.A. shift, do a research paper for my spanish literature class, write the Understanding Audiences paper and get ready for that project, and study hard for my Spanish Linguistics and Communications Law finals... as well as continue to do tutoring, and packing up everything and getting it to the lake house.

3.) I am very close to finished with all my study abroad shopping. The only things I need now are really rain pants and maybe a few more pairs of sock liners. At the City Museum, Max and I visited the vintage clothing shop upstairs and I bought 5 ugly sweaters, all 100% wool, for $20!! So what if I wouldn't be seen dead in them (though some are better than others) - they're 100% wool and $4 each! :D I also managed to stop by REI for some sock liners and the purchase I was most worried about - mountaineering boots.

I went in and checked out the boot section and was pleased to see a great selection. Among the winter boots, I actually saw most of the pairs I knew about - the adorable ones Zahra uses and some big cute ones with puffs of 'fur' coming out of the top were tempting at first glance, but no good for long walking, hiking, etc. Then I saw several of the ones Liisa and I had discussed such as the Caribou pair and others that were even more of a hiking boot/winter boot hybrid.

Confused, I snagged a representative and explained that I really needed winter boots that could take crampons, etc - I only had the budget and space in my suitcase for one pair. He first showed me the most hiking-boot-esque of the winter boots, but then advised me that he would go with a real mountaineering boot instead. He thought as long as they were waterproof and I wore thick socks, the warmth shouldn't be a problem - and then I would have all the support and crampon ability.

Then, he looked down at my feet and said he was a little bit worried about my size. I told him that yeah, I normally wear a 5 or a 6. He said that could be a problem, since a lot of hiking boots start at size 7... none of them are made in size 5. This is a problem I was well aware of, but anyway I asked him to see what he had in size 6. Of the eight or so pairs of mountaineering boots on display, apparently two of them came in size 6, and one of them came in size 6 1/2 and was on clearance.

The clearance shoes were tempting, but you don't mess around with boots, and these things tend to run large anyway, so it was sort of out of the question. Of the two pairs remaining, one was leather and one was just a gore-tex blend - but the guy actually recommended the gore-tex blend one, AND it was cuter, AND it was cheaper. I tried it on, and it was a little bit but not terrible. The representative checked the fit and he said it was okay too. Actually it felt close to perfect on my left foot, but just at the border of being too loose on my right.

So, I tried on a pair of liners underneath the first pair of wool socks, and tadaa! Perfect fit! :D

The boots ran $210, which was almost exactly what I expected to pay... and really I'm just happy that I found a pair in my size that fulfill both of my needs at once! :)

4.) Driving home from St. Louis today, I ran into a bit of... snow? It really threw me off and confused me. I can't decide if it's just been too long since I saw snow, or if it was actually very tiny hail or something. Basically it suddenly seemed foggy up ahead, and when I reached 'up ahead' it looked like tiny tiny quantities of fine white powder were swirling over the highway in front of me. There was some gradient movement on the wind, and yet nothing was hitting my windshield. Cool, though, I guess it's the first snow of the year, in a year that may be filled with a LOT for me! :)

5.) I got interviewed today by an acquaintance who works in broadcast. Just a little piece about Study Abroad - apparently this is a record year for MU students going abroad. It was kind of fun and I got to show off a few of the pictures on my wall, etc. :) On the other hand, I thought he was asking me the wrong questions. I'm a student who studied abroad - ask me about my motivations, the lessons I learned, the challenges, the cool stories... well, he did, a little, but he asked just as many questions about what I thought about it being a record year and why I thought more people were going abroad. I didn't really know what to say about that except, "Well, I think our International Office here is excellent, blah blah blah."

November 27, 2011

Kathy Mattea!

I saw a Kathy Mattea concert down in Florida. Second time, after seeing her in St. Louis several years ago. I love her - especially the stuff she's done recently about the Appalaichans and coal. She doesn't write many songs, but collects and performs them really well.

Two of my favorites are You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive and L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
'You will never leave Harlan alive'

When my granddad's dad walked down Catron's Mountain
And he asked Tillie Helton to be his bride
He said, won't you walk with me out of the mouth of this holler?
Or we'll never leave Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

Well no one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
'Til a man from the Northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills
He said, I'll pay you for your minerals
But he never left Harlan alive

Well granny, she sold out cheap and they moved out west of Pineville
To a farm where big Richland River winds
( From: )
I bet they danced them a jig and laughed and sang a new song
Who said we'd never leave Harlan alive?

But the times, they got hard and tobacco wasn't selling
And ole granddad knew what he'd do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
Sent the money back to granny but he never left Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinking
And you spend your life digging coal from the bottom of your grave

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
'You'll never leave Harlan alive'

When I was a curly headed baby
My daddy sat me down upon his knee
He said, "Boy, you go to school and learn your letters
Don't you be a dirty miner like me"

I was born and raised in the mouth of the Hazard Hollow
Coal cars rambled past my door
Now they're standin' in a rusty row all empty
And the L & N
Don't stop here anymore

I used to think my daddy was a black man
With script enough to buy the company store
Now he goes downtown with empty pockets
And his face is white as a February snow

I was born and raised in the mouth of the Hazard Hollow
Coal cars rambled past my door
Now they're standin' in a rusty row all empty
And the L & N
Don't stop here anymore

Last night I dreamed I went down to the coal yard
To draw my pay like I always did before
But them ol' kudzu vines were comin' through the window
And the leaves and grass were growin' through the floor

I was born and raised in the mouth of the Hazard Hollow
Coal cars rambled past my door
Now they're standin' in a rusty row all empty
And the L & N
Don't stop here anymore

Bad Day

Yesterday my phone went for a quick dip in the ocean. It sorta survived, actually - I think it would have been okay if it had been fresh water. But it corroded overnight (surprise) and that's that. Luckily the phone was very cheap, unluckily, I now have to be without a phone until I can get it replaced.

Flew into Columbia this morning. After the blue gulf of Mexico and eighty-degree sunny days, the totally grey sky, the grey branches, the grey streets and the 30 degree temperatures were not very welcoming. I drove to my residence hall and it was locked up tight. No sign explaining it, but I found another building saying the campus wasn't going to be open until 1. So I had two hours to kill.

I went to Walmart and bought some hot food, then went into the back to try to buy a phone. They were sold out of all the cheap ones - apparently everyone breaks their phones during holiday season. The cheapest replacement I could buy was $40 - it should have been $15. I decided to go and try the other Walmarts.

On the way out I sat on a bench near the entrance and thought I could quickly eat the food I bought. I luckily had a fork in my backpack and right before I opened the container, people were yelling at me. Apparently I was setting off the alarm by sitting too close to it. So why was there a bench there!?!?!

I assumed the alarm was just a door-open-too-long thing, but then the greeter checked my purchases to see if they were setting it off, and asked me to walk through with just my backpack. The shoplifter alarm went off. Of course I didn't have anything, but it was hard to prove since I had my entire flight backpack on with all sorts of rubbish in it. Luckily the guy trusted me and let me go after checking the new hard drive I had bought at best buy and looking in the bag a little bit.

I went out and ate in the backseat of my car, then got back behind the wheel. My plan was to see if AT&T was open, then try the other Walmarts. I put AT&T into my GPS, but it took me to an older, defunct location and I couldn't remember where it was now, and I couldn't call anyone to ask. As I was putting Walmart in to find the other locations, a man started honking at me. When we came to the light I rolled down my window and he told me that one of my tires was really low on air!!

Embarrassing fact - In four years of having a car, I have never once put air in the tires. Did my parents do it for me when I was at home and they borrowed the car? Did the garage do it when I stopped in for oil changes, etc? Honestly I'm not sure how I've avoided that necessity. But now I was panicking. I told GPS to take me to the next auto shop. It drove me a few blocks into the bad part of town (Columbia is small enough that if you take a wrong turn, you might be in the bad part of town). There was no garage there, but there was a gas station across the street.

I went in and asked the clerk where I could go to put air in my tires, apologetically. She told me I could do it at right there at the gas station (I'd thought so, but when I pulled in and looked around, I hadn't seen the air pump right away). She made change for me so I could use the machine. The tire did look pretty bad, but I set it right again. One crisis averted. As I said, I was in a dodgy part of town, so people kept coming up to me to ask me for money, or if they could help me with the pump. I couldn't tell if they were just trying to be nice or what, so I just cheerily said "I've got it, thanks!"

I'd had enough adventure so I drove to my friend Tina's house. Most people were still gone for the holidays, but Tina had written that she'd likely return to Columbia after Thanksgiving. And, since Tina calls her car "the Impala", and I know what an impala is, her car is one of the few of my friends cars that I can recognize. It was in the driveway, so I knocked and she let me in. She was awesome and let me call my parents on her phone to let them know I'd arrived, as well as letting me stay until my dorm opened and feeding me delicious cobbler.

It hasn't been the best day. XD But Tina helped a lot!!

Netbook Decision

So I kicked out the lights on my old netbook awhile ago. Bestbuy said it would cost them $200 to repair - and I only paid about $250-300 for it initially. I could get a screen online for about $60, but I wasn't sure if I could find a friend to install it for me and I didn't trust myself. If I found the screen myself, Bestbuy would repair it for $50, so I was looking at probably about $110.

This was months ago, and for months, I did nothing. My options were - A.) Repair it, B.) Not have a mobile device anymore, C.) Move to a smart phone or tablet, D.) Buy a new netbook.

The problem with A was that repairing it was a full half the value, for a device that was more than a year old. If I repaired it, and the next day the motherboard went out, I would not be happy.

The problem with B was that I didn't want to take my Macbook traveling or out on rainy days, and it was annoying to have no more convenient way to check email or take notes, especially with my lifestyle.

The problem with C was that note-taking was one of my principal needs for my netbook - mobile devices are tempting and I might still get a cheap one in the next 2-3 years as a third device (or maybe its time for a smartphone?), but the only one I could see replacing my netbook, imperfectly, is the iPad which is quite expensive.

The problem with D was that it was the most expensive of the options.

Over the weekend and during black friday I shopped tablets and netbooks. I came to the conclusion that I loved my current Toshiba netbook, the most recent version of which was on sale during black friday for $250, and the other options wouldn't really suit. I decided to repair it.

But then I went home and got on Amazon and started worrying that I would get the wrong kind of screen. Or that there would be some problem with it. Or that they would mess it up repairing it. And I looked at the current laptop and how dirty and worn it was on all the edges and wondered how much longer it would really be healthy inside. And I found a very gently used one on Amazon for $200 even.

So I ordered it and sent it to my house in Florida.

I guess I should be lucky that $200 is the most I've ever lost to sheer stupidity/clumsiness. :( But it's worth $200 to keep my Mac out of harms way!

November 18, 2011

Prize Money

Yesterday, I won the MU Study Abroad Photo Contest with this picture:

It was the only one of the three photos I submitted to make it to the Finalist level, in the category of Cross Cultural Moments. The other categories were Landscapes, Portraits, and Educational Moments. Educational Moments and Cross Cultural Moments were sort of tricky ones, I thought. This one for example could with some imagination go into any of the four categories. But, I threw it in Cross Cultural because I thought there might be less entries to that one or something. :) Out of roughly 150 pictures, they picked 5 finalists in each of the four categories.

At the contest I tried to prepare myself for the possibility of not winning. Sure enough they started off with the Cross Cultural winner, and it wasn't me. So I knew I had either won everything, or nothing... and I won! Yay! :D Apparently they just loved the composition, the colors, and the sense of distance and adventure.

The prize was a HUGE framed version of the picture, and $200. I've already spent the money. XD

I went down to the Alpine Shop and bought the following:

For winter:
- 4 pairs of merino wool socks
- A pair of thin, thermal glove liners
- A pair of waterproof down mittens
- A pair of long underwear bottoms

After my conversation with Liisa, I determined that a balaclava was more or less optional, that my old silk scarves and new wool hat should work fine, that my polyester long underwear would suffice and that I could have her old Nepalese gaiters. That really left only mittens as a necessary warmth item. And, indeed, the mittens were at $80 the most expensive item I bought by far. I needed both warm and waterproof, and the ones I got were actually the cheapest ones that met that requirement. But, my hand-me-down wool socks are a poor fit (enormous, actually), and I found some in my size that were being sold pretty cheaply as for kids, so I got a few pairs. And, with long underwear on sale, I rounded out my 'collection' to two tops and two bottoms, which should just suffice.

For camping/travel:
- A second waterproof compression sack for clothing
- A super absorbant pocket towel
- An ultra-light travel kettle/pot
- A very tiny camp bowl, mug, and spork

I loved the compression sack I got for my sleeping bag, so I decided to get a second one. Camping in Scandinavia, keeping my clothes dry no matter what (plus able to fit in my backpack) is going to be really important. Plus, I can use it on ordinary trips for packing. I'm thinking for example of packing my down pillow this time since there's no Ana or Esther to borrow from in Bergen - this will make that doable. The pocket towel is something I've wanted for quite awhile, and it was surprisingly cheap - $12. Meanwhile the kettle, bowl, mug, and spork came all together in a tiny, very lightweight kit, all nestled together. I had been considering getting this little pack-flat bowl, but this was only twice the price for several items. If I get a camp stove, this will set me up to make tiny meals out and about. If I don't, the kettle will still be useful for traveling, example we don't necessarily have communal cookware in Bergen, if I bring this I will be able to make soup, hot water, ramen, etc.


After my previous shopping excursion to REI, where I picked up a winter sleeping bag, compression sack, sleeping pad, thermal liner, hiking backpack, and waterproof cover... plus the wool hat I got last week... I am now about 60% equipped for Norway. All that remains is the coat my mom is getting me for Christmas <3, (a good waterproof shell with fleece liner), a pair of waterproof pants, and a pair of boots. I love my hiking booties, but I need something a bit warmer with room for wool socks, and, if I can get it without paying an arm and a leg extra, mountaineering capabilities (I'd like to get something I can put crampons on). Alpine Shop had some surprisingly warm boots but nothing for mountaineering, so I'm thinking that after break, when I go to get Max from St. Louis, I'll check out REI's selection.

November 16, 2011

Norwegian Prices

How much are Norwegian prices going to eat my soul, really?

Today I found this great website, Numbeo, that lets me compare cost of living in different cities. I pulled up Kansas City, Tampa, Bergen, Pamplona, Cologne, and Helsinki (closest to Columbia/St. Louis, Tampa, Bergen, Pamplona, Bonn, and Turku as I could get.. and those are the cities I have spent the most time in, oddly enough!)

What I found pretty much confirmed my feelings, but at least it wasn't way worse than I had expected. Groceries are pretty much evenly 2x as much as in America. (Germany and Spain are roughly 1.5x, on average, except for the most basic raw staples which are usually a little bit cheaper than in the States.) Meat, though, at least pretty, processed chicken breast, is a full 4x as expensive. 1kg of chicken breast is $5 in the US, $8 in Spain, $13 in Germany and Finland, and, wait for it... $20 in Norway.

Ouch. But, I'll be okay. I've learned to shop smart, look for sales, and utilize local deals - shrimp for example is not quite as many times more expensive in Norway than in the US, plus it tastes way better in Norway!

Restaurants, now. In the US, you can get a cheap meal for $10, and that's after taxes and tips have been added on top. In Germany, Finland, and Spain, that's bumped up to about $14, which is still not terrible. In Norway, you won't get a combo meal at McDonalds for that. At every range, Norwegian restaurant prices are a full 2x the American price. Meaning that eating in, and packing lunches, will be my main strategy for dealing with hyperinflation. :)

Alcohol? Forget-about-it. Crazy nights out on the town will be my second sacrifice, this time in exchange for fun outdoorsy outings, which are also distinctly not-free.

The last problematic thing in Norway is transportation. In Germany I had free transportation, and the local busses in Columbia and Pamplona run about $1.50 each way. In Norway? Try $4.50 each way. Why do you think I put Alrek residence hall, one of the only decently priced ones within (hopefully) walking distance of the campus, as my top priority? $9 per day just to get to and from school is the kind of thing that can take you down, and fast. If the walks are getting unmanageable, I'll also seriously considering a bike. I loved doing so in Bonn, and even if I have to pay twice as much, it could pay for itself very fast with fares like that.

So, I didn't find any 'good' news, per se. But it's sort of relieving just to see some hard numbers and not just 'ungodly expensive' again and again until you start to imagine $30 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. And I can handle it, I'm sure. I just won't travel quite as much as in Germany, won't eat out quite as much as in Spain - I'll hunker down a bit and be glad I can cook, be glad I'm small enough not to need a lot to eat, and be glad I like to walk.

Who knows, I might even turn into the stereotypical starving student who lines her dresser drawers with oatmeal and lives exclusively on ramen noodles.

November 14, 2011

My Semi-Daily Life

Planning out the last few weeks day by day.
Getting over my phobia of calling strangers bit by bit.
Enjoying the weather on rare beautiful days.
Trying to keep all of my promises.
Missing most/all of my extracurricular meetings.
Enjoying my friends for this semester-in-between.
Looking forward to holidays at home.
Buying woolen hats and stocking and pants and jackets.
Buying waterproof bags and stuff-sacks and clothing.
Buying a good backpack and a winter sleeping bag and pad that fit inside it.
Feeling guilty that I haven't put up a Footprint Magazine post in awhile.
Alternatively volunteering at and attending study abroad orientations.
Having story after story idea turn out to be a dead end.
Shopping for hot deals on transatlantic flights.
Getting called out of a cozy movie night to report a huge fire.
Getting excited for New Years in Finland.
Trying with great futility to use up all of my meal points.
Cancelling my Reslife contract and applying for Reslife.
Preparing for a semester in Norway.
Trying to pass Communications Law, Understanding Audiences, and Reporting.
Trying to ace History of Spanish and Spanish Literature.
Watching whole weeks slip passed me in the blink of an eye.

People My Height or Shorter

Mae West
Jada Pinkett Smith
Margaret Mead
Annie Oakley
Judy Garland
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Edith Piaf
Jean-Jacques-Etienne Lucas

Honorable Mention:
Edvard Grieg - 5'1''

November 13, 2011

Money for Travel

I get asked a lot where I get all my traveling money. The truth is rather complicated - a combination of luckiness, hard work, austerity at home, and a low-budget travel style. And maybe that doesn't suit you. Maybe you don't get the scholarships I get, maybe you have more expenses than I do at home, maybe you put fancy clothes at a higher priority than I do, or maybe you think hostels are icky and wouldn't touch couch class with a ten foot pole. For whatever reason, maybe you can't travel as much as I do. But you can still travel. You can still go somewhere, do something. And if you really think you can't, look at your habits. I realize the following example doesn't apply to everyone, but it applies to a lot of the people say, at my University, who always tell me how much they envy me and wish they could travel as much as I do.


A lot of people make Starbucks their default study location, or swing by the campus cafe on their way to early-morning lecture. I guess they see a nice, hot coffee as a luxury they can afford. But it's totally unnecessary and way overpriced. You can just drink water for free, or, for pennies, you can make the coffee at home yourself (and yes, even the fancy flavors). But, it's just pocket change, right?

A normal latte or cappuccino or whatever at a cafe where I live cost an average of about $3. A Cafe-au-lait, for example, is $2.45 for a small and $3.00 for a large, while a Cafe Caramel is $3.25 for a small, $3.80 for a large.

$3 a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in a year, is $1,092.

Let's say you would spend the 92$ on the supplies to make your coffee at home, so that's $1000 saved, in one year, from dropping one small habit.

I'm positive I could swing a modest European trip for that amount. Certainly, it would pay for half of a grand one, since it more than covers airfare, and that's the main cost for a budget traveller.

Example: I've seen tickets to London and Paris for around $600. You could get a solid week in hostels/cheap hotels for $200-250 more, and spend the last $150-200 on decent food... or you could save money by couch-surfing, eating cheap, etc, and have PLENTY for day-trips, museums, etc.

A week in Europe or a year of brand name coffee - for me, the choice is easy. But it's one each person has to make for themselves.

November 12, 2011


It's been a year since I saw Colleen. We met in Spain, when Sara brought her along to the Basque country and I met the two of them for a U2 concert in San Sebastian. She was a really nice girl, and the three of us got along well together - first at the concert, then in Madrid for Sara's 21st birthday (a night to remember), and finally in a rain drenched but still spectacular, and genuinely spooky, Halloween weekend in Galicia.

Today she's coming to visit me in Columbia! I'm excited to have her, but not sure what I can offer. I love living in Columbia, and when, for example, my sister comes, it seems sufficient to show her all of my favorite places, have her meet my friends, etc. But a guest like this is another matter. In good weather, we can go hiking in nearby parks and enjoy the campus atmosphere. Bad weather makes it a little harder. But I'll think of something.

For now, I just need to clean my room. And feel bad that I haven't gotten around to printing many Spain pictures yet, so Colleen and my adventures together are embarrassingly undocumented on my walls....

Unclear Future

A certain photo, a certain gesture, a certain comment, and suddenly I see one of my friends in a new light, older, more mature, part of the adult world. It's beautiful, it's terrifying, it's tragic, it's natural, it's definitely disorienting. I start realizing where all the different types of people come from, starting with all the people I know well and think are unique, new, not like the archetypes that came before us.

The only one I can't see this with is myself. Despite uncertainties and margin of error, I start to get a vague feeling about the future of some of the others, but never about myself. I'm not worried about it, but I'm so uncertain about the way my own life will go. I can't see my own future and I can't see my own face changing, growing older.

How much of this, I wonder, is normal... and how much of it is my baby face, or the degree of uncertainty I've deliberately programmed into my own lifestyle?

November 11, 2011


Sitting in Communications Law class, the professor paused the lecture to acknowledge 11/11/11 11:11, and, 11 seconds in, told us all to make a wish.

I couldn't even think of one. I have everything I could ever ask for - great family, great friends, and great opportunities.

I'll take the time to say a big thank you to all the wonderful people in my life, and to the world itself, instead!

November 09, 2011

Next Semester

Tentative plans for the coming semester -

I'll leave for Finland right after Christmas, see Liisa, party it up for new years, go dog-sledding (!!!), ice swimming, learn to cross-country ski, and melt tin to predict the future. :D A great way to start the year!

Then it's on to Norway, where, who knows really? I'm definitely going to join the outdoor adventures club and cross my fingers that I'm qualified to do many of their activities with them. They offer tons of glacier walking, horseback riding, rock climbing, skiing, snowshoeing, just everything you can think of... but even if I'm not good enough for all of those they even offer nice little evening jaunts like a little hike up the mountain for a bonfire. I don't need to travel nearly as much as I have in the past. I feel very little need to go to other countries (a very few possible exceptions if a great opportunity presents itself, but unlikely), I've seen Oslo, and I've seen Trondheim. So Stavanger is really the only city in Norway that I feel like I need to see, and it's not terribly far. I do really really want to see Northern Norway at some point - whether that's for a winter weekend with Erasmus students, hoping for a glimpse of the northern lights, or on the hurtiggruten without a cabin in beautiful late-spring light...

On the way home, I've promised that I'll go to the Faroe Islands at last. A week there, probably... (any less and it's not worth the journey), and, if I have it my way, I'll do another week or so in Iceland.

Then I have to hurry home for an internship.

November 07, 2011


Sky white as milk and water droplets gathering like stubble on the statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Quad. Yep, it's November again, as always the hardest month to get through. This one's not bad so far, except for a little bit of nonsense I feel like I should be too old for by now. Not knowing what to believe or who to trust. Looking at a bunch of doors left just barely cracked, wondering which to open, which to close and which to slam shut.

November 03, 2011

Studying on the Bus

In Germany, when I had a big reading to do, I used to go outside and catch the bus. Ride it on the long circuit across the river and back again. Hahaha I wonder if I'll ever be in the position to do something like that again. Could use it about now.


Incidentally, I remember all those times I would work hard to try to seem international and special.

Now I can't keep all the strangeness out of even the most basic of my life stories, even when I want to, unless I watch myself really close and leave a lot out.

Everywhere you look, I'm starting to scatter.

You can see it in a look at my desk, my resume, my list of Facebook friends, my bookshelf, my medicine cabinet, my spice drawer, my mailbox, my heart.

Lack of Investment

A Totoro pillow on the bed. A framed picture of my Freshman dorm-mates. A chocolate tin from Switzerland, a Moomin tin from Finland. Some dried-out roses from Tina in an ordinary drinking cup. My Tanuki toothpick holder. A Chinese scarf-tablecloth that was a gift from one of my cultural-ambassador partners. Norwegian fridge magnets and a round, wooden one that says Ljubljana.

My beautiful old-fashioned map poster is up on the wall above my bed, but I've only bothered to pin it for the 7 places I've actually lived. I have a framed picture of Prague above my desk, matching the one In has at home in Korea. Otherwise I just have a bunch of smaller, random photos from all over pinned here and there and everywhere. And I guess you could count my row of movies and the little, standing Family Scrapbook perched on top of those.

It's really not much, for a home. Any less and it would look downright barren and unwelcoming. But I've never really given this room the chance to be a home. One semester. It's hardly enough time to bother with unpacking. And I'm not that sensitive to things like that, anyway. A small part of me yearns for the day I can put down roots and spread out and start building something - but most of me doesn't care if that day is a long, long way away.

Most of me wants to be able to put my laptop and my camera and my passport in a backpack, and run out of the door without a backwards look. Alright, so in a perfect world I also have a big enough suitcase to throw in a rice cooker, and all of my camping gear. Maybe even some basic clothing. And maybe a little, dry, safe, warm corner back 'home' to hide my books and my movies for a later date.

I'm in limbo here, for this one semester. A piece of familiarity between two semesters. Its hard to make plans. I can't run for president of any clubs or sign on for a year-long job. In fact I just cancelled my reslife contract for next year, which I was only allowed to do because studying abroad is a 'school approved activity'.

In the shower, I have one bottle of cheap shampoo, one bottle of shaving cream, and one razor. I've switched the razor out twice now and it looks like I'll have to change out the shampoo once this semester as well. Pity.

My cupboards barer than its ever been. I have a meal plan and what's the point of hoarding? This is a good thing, I think. I have two bags of rice that it looks like I won't finish. Too much Ssamjang. And mostly a tiny mountain of stuff from the lake house that was due to expire and which I was instructed to "use up or throw out." I've restricted the lot of it to one small set of shelves. Set space for three micro-curries. Can't buy another one until I eat one of the ones I've already got.

I haven't really bothered getting to know my roommates, and they haven't really bothered getting to know me. That's fine. It really is. We don't fight, that's the important thing. In fact, we barely see each other at all. Fine. From what I know of them based on their decorations and the bits of conversations that slip through the cracks under doors, I have nothing against them but they're not exactly prime bestie material. I'm sure they feel the same way about me.

November 01, 2011

29 Credits in One Semester

My transcript finally came in. And it credits me with one hell of a semester in Germany. Other than a C- in Latin American Literature, the exam I majorly screwed up on, I got B+ or better in all of my courses. Not that it even matters, because all I had to do was clear the C- threshold in order to have all the courses listed on my Mizzou transcript as 'pass'. Pretty cool.

I'm especially shocked and secretly pleased by my 1.0 (A+/more or less 100%) in, of all things, Culture Studies Spain and Morocco. I paid attention to the first month of that class, when we were talking about Al-Andalus, but once we got into the more modern, war-torn relationship between Spain and Morocco, I started dozing off. And um, you can't do that in a class taught in a foreign language. :) The latter 2/3 of my 'notes' are mostly scribbles with an occasional reminder that something called "Rifkrieg" is important and I should look it up. I finally did so the night before the exam, and spent a few hours reading all the cross-referenced Wikipedia pages. Until 7 p.m. the night before, I wasn't even sure I wanted to take the exam, I was that sure I was going to fail. But my friends asked what I had to lose, and the truth was, nothing. And then I went in to the exam room and destroyed it. Still, a German 1? Yikes!

But the grades weren't the interesting part of the transcript. What was interesting was the credit hours. 58 ECTS. The normal semester course-load is 30. In American/Mizzou terms, it comes down to this - I received 29 transfer credits - a full academic year's worth - in one semester abroad. Good stuff, too. Two upper level Spanish classes, two upper level German classes, an upper level Humanities, an upper level Social Sciences, and three upper level miscellaneous foreign language. Everything transferred better than I'd dared hope!

But it's just funny, thinking back. I knew I was taking more courses than average - and to be fair, only 8 during the normal semester and 1 during the orientation program. But I was hardly consumed by the coursework. I had time for cooking and random parties and movie-nights, for exploring NRW inch-by-inch, for editing and sorting photographs and keeping up the MU Study Abroad Blog. I spent every Wednesday volunteering in an elementary school. And of course, I travelled almost every weekend, near and far.

It shouldn't even be possible. It helped that I took one credit-heavy class during the pre-semester orientation program, but still. The only reason I got away with it is that international students don't register like normal students. Nothing in the computer to stop me. I had 3 classes from the international office, 3 from the Romance department, and 3 from Ansgar, almost as jokes. At no time did anyone notice that I was taking all of these classes at once, apparently.

One semester. Eighteen countries. Twenty-nine credits. Dozens of new friends and uncountable memories.

Yeah, I'm pleased as punch.

October 20, 2011

Search Terms

Things people searched to reach the MU Study Abroad Blog:

culture shock lancaster
resemblance lord of the rings mecca
хот дог ман
pictures of 2 people on a date
studying abroad in europe during halloween
reasons for staying halloween
germanic towers
ring of jack o lantern что это mu?
a beautiful young couple in the street
if i study abroad in europe will i come home for christmas
most beautiful afternoon in the world
24 hour pizza delivery vienna austria
cemetery jew
how well were apprentices fed at quarry bank mill
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cultural view of cows in argentina
why are liver birds called liver birds
little girl driving into a skip
photos of beautiful paintings of world's flowers
famous drag queens
مدينة بون
finland best country
has anyone just packed up and moved abroad
why is an unhurried attitued important when assisting a client with feeding
forest dragons germany
i love you because you are my friend
is there a town in germany called small town

October 19, 2011

Study Abroad Transcripts

My application to the University of Bergen required me to choose my classes already. It's flexible and I can change things later (hopefully), but still its a little yikes-y. I just checked everything I might want to take and submitted the form, basically. If they get mad I'll claim I don't understand. After all, it wasn't an especially impressive translation. I expected better from the Norwegians. The housing information told me "White Goods" were included.

Anyway, this, while I still don't have my transcript from last semester in Bonn. This actually matters, because there is a small but real chance I failed one of my classes (everything riding on one exam, and fatally misunderstanding that exam, for the fail)... and I am basically totally unsure of how my credits are going to transfer. And whichever ones didn't transfer well, need to be obtained in Bergen.

Most of the other schools seem to have gotten their grades in. Chicago did a few days ago and they are NOT happy. A lot of C's, apparently. Makes me pleased as punch to be from Missouri where when we're abroad, everything is pass-fail. Fingers crossed. But everything pretty much translated well and easily from Spain, so there's some optimistic precedent to look back at.

October 17, 2011

Fresh as a Missouri Morning

I do not like this commercial.

You might think I would, since it mentions Missouri, and that's rare enough and is usually sufficient to earn a measure of my satisfaction.

However, the advertisement is annoying as hell and it's just not true!

There are a lot of reasons I love Missouri but 'fresh mornings' are not one of them. In summer mornings are muggy and gross. Year round morning means orange haze on the horizon's low hills that make me think of city fog. Give me a Missouri afternoon or evening or middle of the night over morning anytime.

October 16, 2011

Gear Shopping

I just spent $450 at the REI sporting goods store in St. Louis. That's a lot of money, especially when I'm trying to save up for Norway next semester. But this stuff is for Norway, and for post-Norway as well! I took the time to think about each purchase and I think I ended up with some good stuff. This is what I got -

A.) A lifetime membership to REI stores - the savings for this already paid for themselves three times over today.

B.) A sleeping bag - one that's rated 20F/-6.5C for 'comfort' all the way down to -26F/-32C for 'survival'. It's down, compresses very small and was also one of the lighter ones available - definitely in the 'backpacking' category. There were surprisingly much warmer ones,  but this was a good mixture I thought between quite warm/very light and not insanely expensive.

Also - A self-inflating 1.5 inch sleeping pad, a waterproof compression sack, and a liner that adds 14F/8C to the comfort rating of the sleeping bag.

C.) A backpack - a barely, barely big enough one, but it's lightweight, it fits great, and it was on clearance and I had a coupon for additional $$ of a clearances item.... so it was 1/4-1/3 the price I expected to pay for the backpack. With some creativity I figured out a way to tie my sleeping back onto the outside, leaving enough room inside for some clothing, etc. It's not overly spacious but it should just do, its a huge upgrade over what I've used in the past anyway.

Also - A waterproof cover big enough to fit over the bag even when I have the sleeping bag tied onto the outside.

So yeah, lots of money but also lots of nice things I'm sure to be using for a long time! :)

October 14, 2011


I have no regrets about Spain.
Initially I thought, I might go to Portugal, or North Africa, or at least Southern Spain with its old Muslim palaces etc. Andorra for a certainty. More of the Camino. Burgos.
I didn't do any of that.
But I have no regrets.
* - Okay, teeny tiny regret about Andorra. Only because the plans were all laid and cancelled at the last minute due to events outside of my control. It's hard to come so close!

I have no regrets about Germany.
Initially I thought, I might go to Denmark, or Lithuania... go up high in the Swiss Alps, see Neuschwanstein. Maybe go back to Spain for Las Fallas or the Running of the Bulls.
I didn't do any of that.
But I have no regrets.
* - Okay, teeny tiny regret about the Alps. But only because I went all the way there and the situation screwed me out of my prize. If I'd simply not gotten the chance to go, I don't even think I would regret this. 

Before leaving, there were infinite possibilities. It was easy to get stressed trying hopelessly to plan ahead. Worrying about getting this or that done. But in the end, once I arrived, all my lists of possibilities were was a quiet reminder of... possibilities.

And my life filled up in amazing ways. New friends, new experiences.

My days were so rich with both the quiet, every-day life in another country things, and the huge, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

The things I did, that I didn't expect, far outweighed what I 'missed out on'.

Canyoning in the Pyrenees, mushroom hunting in the Selva de Irati, multiple visits to lovely Koblenz, learning Basque, Germany's Wattenmeer, climbing Ben Nevis, biking to the grocery store every week in Germany, multi-culti foie-gras sushi in Alsace-Lorraine, the car train, heading off alone to Asturias and Foz de Lumbier, Venice (enough said), living in an old communist building in Krakow, scary roads in the lake district and peak district of England, Spissky Hrad in Slovakia, Lake Bled in Slovenia, Halloween in a little Galician town, Gianfranco's 'Spanish' and duets with Jaime, the 'horrible' rainy great glen way, the lovely sunny day in Inverness at the end, Budapest's hot baths, the huge paellas at UNAV, getting lost looking for the old abbey ruins near Bonn, existentialism in Alicante, climbing Arthur's Seat at night, the fire dancers in Madrid, Opus Dei and Basque style Christmases, just walking magical Pamplona and bits of the Camino, the Rhine River Castle Cruise, Spanish parties, German parties, Going to France (just for lunch!), Prague in sunshine and in rain, (and the guy peeing on the stairs in our 100 person-per-room, 7 euro-a-night hostel!), the Irish priest in the little border town who drank beer for breakfast, the terrible night in Mannheim, walking across Liechtenstein, Luxembourg (enough said), Heaven-and-Earth plate at the oldest restaurant in Bonn, Finding that flea market in Hungary, Kinder-Schokolade Crepes, Vappu and Easter in Finland, Tomatina, the wild horses stopping our car in eastern Navarra, Staying with Bostjan and family in Slovenia, leaning into the wind in Pikatua, perfect weather in the Hebrides Islands, The Prado, Crossing the Slovakian border, Surfing in Biarritz, the Industrial Parks of NRW, finding out months later what that obelisk in Amaiur-Maya was all about, walking on water with the swans in Keukenhof, the candy-smell of the air there, the absolute freedom of my weekend in Belgium... I could go on forever with those unexpected, wonderful events!!!

... And yet, here I am again. I'm looking at Norway. I'm so excited I can't contain myself. I'm hyper and nervous and twittering and putzing around and all I can think about is a big, happy, wonderful, exciting, amazing - void. A hasn't happened yet. An uncertain future.

And that's hard! It's hard to obsess about something that's still so unclear! I want to plan, to have something concrete to be excited about! I should know by now that the real wonders unfold once you arrive, the possibilities you never expected, the friends you couldn't have imagined, the adventures you fell into serendipitously. I should know, I should, but it's not helping me now.

Instead I'm making lists again. Checking prices and schedules and more. Making lists of possibilities that excite and amaze in one moment, and then in the next moment make me pathetically nervous, grasping, greedy... a sense that if I don't check off everything on the list, I'll go home sad, crying, unfulfilled.


Why can't I learn better?

October 07, 2011

Autumn in Missouri

Next to Rollins, there's a beautiful tree with black branches and golden leaves, more beautiful by far than any of the homecoming decorations. Besides the medical building, the birches are nestled into their bed of grey-green grasses that wave spirit-like in the wind. On the MKT, the trees just beyond the cliffs are brilliantly yellow and arch overhead like an impossibly high and weightless roof. Bees and summer still cling to the colorful flowers around Lowry and Jesse hall. Over grindstone trail, vultures swarmed dark beneath a pale moon that matched the clouds in a blue sky. From the top of the cliffs, the woods seemed delightfully painted and rusted over. Orange, yellow, red, brown...

I love my campus, I love my state, I love autumn...

It's nice to be home for this. <3

October 05, 2011

Europeans and Hobbies

So it's Mikko's birthday today, he's a friend of Liisa's who I met in Finland. I went to write Happy Birthday on his wall and I saw all of his fancy-dancing pictures on his profile as well. And I thought, wow, Liisa and all of her friends are always so busy! Mikko dances, and Joel does dog sled racing, and Liisa has rock-climbing... any one of those is more interesting than the hobbies most of my friends in the states have. And thinking about other European friends that I have, to a lesser extent, they also have pretty well defined and serious hobbies. (But the Finns most of all, for some reason, or maybe its just coincidence.) I mean I tend to think of all of those as hobbies that you have to take somewhat seriously, get better at, etc. When I try to think of hobbies for my friends here, I come up with more categories... Nash is interested in politics and psychology... Tabi is interested in metaphysical stuff... Tina is interested in environmental issues... etc. Well of course I know they have other interests and so do the Finns, I mean Liisa also used to horse-back ride, and she is getting interested in wine tasting, she likes languages and she loves traveling, scouts, etc... but hmmm, this is so random (also it's 2 in the morning, I just finished a long paper, and I'm drinking cheap free wine in the hotel room). but yeah, I just have this feeling that they're taking their hobbies more seriously. I mean if you think to yourself, "rock climbing is my hobby," you might take it more seriously. And if you really want to do something badass like dog-sledding or figure-dancing (I don't even know the names for it, lol, thats how bad I am) then you need to practice and take it seriously. Anyway, it's just my sleep-deprived, Facebook stalking thought of the day!

October 03, 2011

Mark Twain on Travel

“20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

~ Mark Twain

October 02, 2011

The World According to Me

Blue is for countries I've been to...
Green is for countries where I have a close friend...
Yellow is for countries where I have (or have had) a friend...
Grey is for countries that, for whatever reason, I feel some connection to (once planned to visit, strong desire to visit, learned a lot about in a class or for a project, etc)...

I find it somewhat interesting.

Obviously I've neglected Africa pretty badly, which is only partially my fault - there are comparatively few African students who study abroad, and who I would come into contact with.

I've had many friends from a variety of Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, but few close friends... Pretty much only Layla from Iran, Lucia from Chile, and Jorge from Mexico.

Since I've been to most of Europe, the map doesn't really reflect my friendships there - but rest assured, most European countries fit into multiple of the above categories!

I have a lot of close friends in Asia! It's up there with Europe in that regard, and that's why Asia is my priority after I finish studies in North America and Europe. :)

I like this map for where I've been way more than the ones who do it by country. For example, I haven't been to Alaska, but those maps make it look like I have... And if I'd been to St. Petersburg, it would make it look like I'd conquered the breadth of Russia! 

No, this is a more accurate picture, complete with the revelation that I'm missing most of Mexico, most of the American West, Southern Spain, most of France, and large expanses of Scandinavia. 

Plus, it's actually more clear than the other map when it comes to small Carribbean Islands I've visited and such... also in terms of where in America, Japan, etc I have travelled.

Here's a friend map I quite like... maybe because its design hides the embarrassing lack of African friends? :P It makes Siberia look lonely as hell, but then, it sort of is! :) I think this map makes it obvious that I've lived in a few places in the States (thus both random dots all over the country, and major centers where I have 100+ friends), participated in a lot of Erasmus type programs (remarkably even scattering throughout Europe) that also include a lot of Asians (especially the coast of Asia is perfectly peppered!) A problem with this map is that a lot of my friends aren't home right now. I have several Indian friends, but none of them are in India right now... Zahra from Mumbai is actually in London at the moment. And actually at least one of the South American dots is my American friend Ben, who's studying in Chile!

September 25, 2011


I spent time with mom and dad, I cleaned out my storage bay, I sorted through a lot of old stuff, I finally watched Erin Brockovich, and I went for a cool hike with dad in Ha Ha Tonka (he showed me two secret caves he had found!)

On the other hand I did a pretty bad job of studying for my exam tomorrow or doing any other school or Reporting work. >.> That'll just make tomorrow that much more fun I guess.

Family and Happy

Life's sort of perfect right now, and I wish it could just stay this way a little while... :)

September 19, 2011

Three Problems

I have some major problems.

Mostly having way too much stuff, not being able to stay organized in various ways, and wasting massive amounts of time in front of my computer despite being otherwise very productive.

These things are catching up with me.

I'm trying my hardest to get better, though.... at least on the first two.

September 17, 2011


Nash and I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones. He kept hearing rumors about Hoochfest, the legendary Journalism party, being that night - but we were pretty sure we had debunked it after talking to several people who were very involved in previous years. Then we went and shopped at the Indian store, picked up Tabi and ran to Plaza for dinner.

Going home, I found a text message from Clint, who I lived with Freshman year and basically haven't seen since then. He wanted me to go to a bar for some music. I ended up going because I felt like I did have some energy left after all, it was Friday night, and I felt bad for not texting him back last week about making Gimbap together.

The bar was sorta okay, we met up with Nate (also from Freshman year) and this other guy, Steven, who not only lived with us Freshman year but happened to go to High School and Middle School with me, all those years ago. Despite all the contact, I would say we've always been friendly, but never friends.

After the bar, we went to a club for just a few minutes, then, ignoring more Hoochfest rumors, we headed to Nate and Steven's place.

And for four hours straight, we argued about 1.) What life's most fundamental question is, 2.) Whether or not God exists, 3.) Whether or not it would help or even change the world situation if we could definitively prove whether or not God existed and share this information with the world, 4.) Gay marriage.... etc etc etc.

People argue about these things all the time. They don't have easy answers, I guess. And Nate and Steven are roommates and they get along so well partly, I suspect, because they like to debate these things in a civilized, logical, respectful yet passionate manner with one another. They've spent night after sleepless night debating those very points.

And yet - we got somewhere. With Clint and I in the mix, we got somewhere. We actually came to agreements on a number of huge things - the most concrete of which being the gay marriage issue, but also a lot of other more abstract principles.

What a cool night!

September 16, 2011


8:00-9:30 - Wake up, eat breakfast, tidy up, walk to lecture
9:30-10:45 - News Reporting Lecture
11-12:15 - History of the Spanish Language
12:30 - 1:45 - Spanish Literature
2:00-3:30 - Eat lunch, mope around, blog about reporting being hard, walk to the Missourian
3:30-5:00 - Newsroom
5:00-6:30 - Footprint magazine meeting
6:30-7:30 - Sustain Mizzou reading group
8:00-11:30 - German Stammtisch

- Looks like I'm going to start contributing to Footprint magazine occasionally. A food fridays features with rice cooker recipes etc... and occasionally covering an event. Tina's in charge of the magazine and I like how its low-key and student managed. I figure it'll be fun.

- We read part of Silent Spring in the reading group. The other three members all found it boring to various degrees, but their reasons sort of puzzled me. One guy said he thought it was boring because he wasn't sure he believed everything said in the book. ??? I'm just not sure I understand this reasoning. I can be bored by something that's absolutely true, even important, like differential calculus. I can also be fascinated by something dubious and trivial, like reports that there are still Thylacine sightings. We talked about how the book would probably be written differently nowadays, or it wouldn't have been as popular. My guess is it would have more of a "so I drove down to a small village to ask the people what happened there" and use a lot of dramatic, first person testimony, etc. Still, I didn't mind it the way it was, either. Maybe I'm just a really big geek... but here the facts were fascinating, presented in capable prose, and I had no problems reading it. Hmm.

- At Stammtisch I talked to a lot of fun people and heard stories of how the sand gets into everything in Afghanistan, including guns which can lead to accidents... and about backpacking through the Swiss Alps and meeting men wearing traditional feather hats and Lederhosen... about five-course meals in Prague that cost under $20. I was feeling like a little snack, and no one else was biting, so as I made my way to the counter to see if they had anything small and cheap on the menu, I passed a recently deserted table with a bunch of untouched cheesy breadsticks sitting there. Needless to say, I grabbed them and ate them, much to the surprise and delight of my Stammtisch companions. "To answer your question," I said with my mouth half full, "This is how I afford to travel so much."

September 15, 2011

Reporting's Hard

I remember when making calls to dentists and doctors etc made me nervous.

I just did that now, because I've been needing to and because it allowed me to procrastinate on making calls for my stories, which is much harder.

Why can't I ever have a moment of plateauing, being able to lay on my back and think, "ah, I can do this, it's easy"... without some new and harder challenge ahead of me?

I guess this is the life I choose to live. But sometimes it's exhausting.

I've got 5 stories sorta up in the air right now and all of them are sort of stuck, mostly from people not calling me back. People I need. I'm about to go drag myself to the Missourian and make some more calls and talk to Schneller and try to bring at least one of the stories at least a little closer to finished. I like the stories, but Journalisms not the kinda thing you can lock yourself in and do with a pile of library books. Sometimes I long for that, for the selfishness and self-reliance of academia. Maybe I'm better at that.

And maybe that's why I keep pushing myself at this new thing, because I'm not bad at it either, I think I'm okay, actually, even if it's harder.

But sometimes I feel too scared, too shy, too lazy. And it's cold today. I just want to make popcorn and curl up in a fuzzy robe and I don't care, do Spanish assignments or Anthro assignments or whatever with a  book and a computer screen and maybe multitasking with Skype while I'm at it and if I fail, I have only myself to blame, and I won't fail, because I have all night and only myself to depend on.

This is so different. I need to dig out my autumn jacket and put on my boots and go out into the world facing cold and editor (admittedly very nice) and sources in all states of friendliness and willingness and real life and expectations.

... Alright. I'm going.

Goodbye, Summer!

Its already pretty chilly outside. Yesterday was rainy, windy, and in the low fifties. It'll improve again by this weekend, but summer is definitely over, and autumn is coming fast and colder than average, I believe. It's okay in a  sense. I love fall - it's my favorite season. But this was the coldest summer I've ever had, after the warmest winter. Ironic considering how the year's been for my home state of Missouri!

I regret nothing. The last 14 months have probably been the best in my life. I was always afraid of saying that in the past tense, but really, they were so good that I'm sort of okay with it. 18 countries, crazy adventures, unbridled freedom like I may never have again, things that were so incredibly beautiful they made me cry, learning so much every long day that my dreams went around in circles in the short nights. Yes, it was wonderful - no regrets.

Still, I haven't had quite enough baking in the after-dark heat, or had time to enjoy the sense of freedom that comes from bare arms and shoulders. I've been on the boat a lot, since my dad goes out on it every day at the lake, and I've gone swimming at least the bare minimum of times in these last weeks... but it still wasn't anything like those summers I remember, with days and days spent in the water and eating frozen pizzas in swimsuits. How much of that, I wonder, would I lose anyway as adulthood creeps towards me?

September 14, 2011

From Bonn, Germany

Since I did a list like this for Pamplona, I thought it was only fair to make one for Bonn as well!

Bonn has excellent connections to, well, most of Europe, but this list concentrates on what's closer.

Afternoon Activities:
- Go over to Königswinter and climb up Drachenfels! You'll actually pass two castles before the end - the real Drachenfels at the top of the mountain is really old (and it shows), while halfway up is the much newer and prettier Drachenburg Schloss. The hike is half the fun, but if you're feeling lazy, you can opt to take the little inclined train up. On nice days, sometimes mules are also available for rental.
- Get a little lost looking for Kloster Heisterbach, a ruined monastery not far from Drachenfels.
- Bike down the Rhine for great views of Drachenfels, and visit the tragic and legendary Rolandsbogen.
- Relax in the Hofgarten in front of the University, Alter Zoll by the Rhine, the grass in the middle of Poppelsdorfer Allee, or any other nice park in Bonn.
- Eat the super cheap (1 euro) crepes that are sold near the University and the Cathedral. The best one is the Kinder Schokolade kind, almost too rich, which I have never seen offered outside of Bonn.
- Walk up to Kreuzbergkirche, a little church that's all but forgotten now but which features an impressive Baroque staircase and was once visited by many pilgrims. The view from up there is nice as well.
- Take the bus to Waldau, where you can take a little hike through a protected forest area as well as see two types of native deer and wild boars - the babies are really cute in the springtime!
- Do as the tourists do and go visit the house of Beethoven, and then go to the Beethoven symphony house to hear a performance.
- Visit one of Bonn's wonderful museums such as the very good and free Haus der Geschichte post-WWII history museum.
- Go down to the southernmost part of Bonn, Bad Godesberg, and walk up to the castle there.

Day Trips:

In Nordrhein-Westfalen:

Aachen - To the far west of Nordrhein-Westfalen is the city of Aachen, once the seat of Charlemagne. Some buildings from his time even remain, along with a lovely coronation hall and Northern Europe's oldest cathedral (a world heritage site). Aachen a nice university city with hot springs and a lot of cute places to sit and eat.

Cologne - The cathedral of Cologne, also a world heritage site, is simply the most amazing cathedral I've ever seen. It was in fact the tallest building in the world for a while, and is still one of the tallest cathedrals (I think only Ulm beats it, and Ulm has one single spire to Cologne's two). The rest of Cologne is also worth a visit for the amazing Karneval celebration, for some nightlife, and for the chocolate museum.

Dusseldorf - Not too far from Cologne, another Rhine-side city. The harbor has some quite interesting looking buildings in it, and the Japanese part of town is fun to visit if you want to see a bunch of anime geeks in costume or try the best Japanese food for miles. I really like the feeling in all the restaurants by the banks of the Rhine.

Wuppertal - Famous for being really boring, but Wuppertal has its moments, and a pretty cool suspended train. I also thought the free botanical garden was worth a quick visit. You can throw it in with Dusseldorf or Cologne easily.

Bad Münstereifel - A rare place in Nordrhein-Westfalen, this is one of those cute German towns with the half-timber buildings and the old city walls. Its in the Eifel region, which means lovely, gentle hills all around.

Münster - This small city in the north of the state has a beautiful cathedral, (don't fall for the decoy 'cathedral' in the square... that's just an ordinary church) a few blocks of buildings that look like they belong much farther north in Germany, and a cool open-air museum where you can see old wooden buildings and mills, try your hand at spinning wool or playing a turn-organ.

Duisburg - Part of the old Ruhr-gebiet industrial area, there's a very interesting and unique park here called the Landscape Park Duisburg. It's basically a huge old factory converted to a park - pieces have become rock-climbing areas, children's playgrounds, observation towers, a movie theatre, and a scuba diving pool. Especially cool when its lit up on weekend nights.

Essen - Another part of the old Ruhr-gebiet, Essen is home to the Zollverein coal processing plant, a UNESCO world heritage site. You can spend a surprisingly long and interesting time there taking the guided tour (2 hours long!) and wandering around the other parts of the enormous complex.

In Rheinland Pfalz:

Koblenz - Not far south of Bonn is Koblenz, which marks one end of the Upper Rhine River Valley. Koblenz has an old palace, a handful of churches and plazas... blah blah blah... AND two sites you can't miss: The Deutsches Eck, which marks the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel with the flags and shields of each German state and a huge statue towering above it all (climb up and you will feel like you are at the prow of the ship Germany)... and Ehrenbreitstein, a simply enormous fortress across the river with an unbelievable view over the river and the hills.

The Upper Rhine River Valley - The stretch of river between Mainz and Koblenz is so full of castles that you'll get whiplash trying to photograph them all on a drive down. Better take a day-cruise and get on and off a few times on the way. This is fully half of the legendary Germany you've all read about - the rest of it is in Munich with the Lederhosen, Octoberfest, and Neuschwanstein castle. 

Mainz - This is at the other end of the Upper Rhine River Valley from Koblenz, and its a pleasant city with a town-feeling. Mainz was a big deal in the middle ages. The printing press was invented here and you can check out the Gutenberg museum. There are also several important churches, and I liked all the cool fountains everywhere.

Trier - The oldest city in Germany, Trier sports some great Roman ruins I never expected to see so far north, like the magnificent emperor's baths and an amphitheater... as well as the "Black Gate" that is the city's icon. Some very German segments as well. 

In The Netherlands:

Heerlen - If you're itching to get to the Netherlands, fast, Heerlen is the first stop across the border. It doesn't have a lot to offer a tourist except what's quintessentially and uniquely Dutch - like Stroopwaffels, yummy fries, and other things I won't mention here.

Maastricht - This is the only major city in the Netherlands that I consider a possible day trip from Bonn (I've heard of package tours that will take you to Amsterdam and a few other towns and back in a single day, but that's just silly as far as I'm concerned. You have like 35 minutes in Zaanse Schans, what's the point?). Maastricht now has lovely dutch architecture, and more of the above mentioned waffles, fries, etc.

From Pamplona, Spain

Here is a list of things I did and places I visited from Pamplona, Spain during my semester there... maybe it will help someone. :)

Priority is given to places that are in Navarre or even Pamplona itself, and to places that don't require private transportation. You could easily make many of these a weekend trip or combine several of them for a full weekend trip. Pamplona is also within pretty easy reach of Barcelona, Madrid, etc, but this list was created to focus on closer destinations. :)

Afternoon Activities:
- Walk around Pamplona itself! It's a lovely city with a lot of different areas. Go up on the old city walls, follow one of the rivers all the way through, go out towards Huarte for a great view of the mountains rising behind the cathedral, go to Arre to see La Trinidad de Arre, an old mill and bridge over a little waterfall.
- Take a little hike... From Pamplona it's a nice good walk to several other towns. Zizur Menor and Mayor are especially close and one day I followed the Ulzama river to Sorauren and back. There's also the Aqueduct of Noain in the other direction. Feel free to cheat with busses or even cars as appropriate, but the walk can be half the fun!
- Take the bus to Puente de la Reina. It's a very small, sweet old town with an impressive bridge giving it its name.
- Go Pintxos hopping and try whatever strikes your fancy - but make sure that includes the Foie at Gaucho!
- Explore every inch of the maze-like Ciutadela park
- Try to catch some Basque cultural events such as Pelota (handball) or Bertsolaritza (improv poetry competitions)
- Try cooking (or at least eating) Navarrese dishes such as Baztanzopas, Ajoarriero ... and especially Relleno, (bloodless blood sausage made with rice, egg, saffron, and suet... pour tomato sauce over), which is found only within Pamplona city limits!

Day/Weekend Trips:

In Navarre:

- The Camino de Santiago: Do a day on the Camino Santiago, starting in Pamplona and returning by bus. I went south to Puente de la Reina (see afternoon activities), passing the epic Alto del Perdon with its monument to pilgrims, windmills all around, and a great view of Pamplona below.

- Bardenas Reales: Go south to Navarra's badlands for some fantastic desert landscapes... also visit nearby towns such as Tudela and keep your eye out for vinyards, herds of livestock weaving through the canyons, and the cave-houses nearby. You sort of need a car for this one.

- Olite Castle: Not far south of Pamplona, one of my favourite castles ever... really elegant especially in fall when much of it was covered in thick red ivy. There are plenty of busses going here.

- Foces de Lumbier y Arbayun: To the east of Pamplona are these beautiful canyons. Arbayun is perhaps even more stunning especially from the viewpoint, but not as accessible to hike. Lumbier has a very good and accessible trail leading all the way through (and if you're brave, take the the much worse trail to the Devil's Bridge, or hike around in the mountains nearby on other trails.) These trips are much easier to do by car, but I managed it by bus by disembarking at Liedena, hiking along the river to and through the canyon, and bussing back from Lumbier. Pay close attention to the schedules if you do this.

- The Witch Caves of Northern Navarre: In the far north of Navarra, near the border with France, you can visit the witch caves of Zugarramurdi and Urdax. Urdax is a more traditional cave with some nice formations, while Zugarramurdi is sort of creepy with its huge chambers, history as a location for witches' sabbaths, and a clay-red river flowing through. Just over the border you can also hit Ainhoa and Sare, both of which make the list of 100 most beautiful French villages. Much easier to do this one with a car.

- The Baztan Valley: Just south of the Witch Caves (see above), you'll find the Baztan Valley with its many lovely small towns. Elizondo is the biggest and has some charming architecture, I also really enjoyed stopping in tiny Amaiur. You can get to Elizondo by bus, but a car is better since you'll want to explore all the tiny towns and the countryside in between.

- Javier Castle: A nice castle in the Southeast of Navarra - I've heard that its defenses are in great shape and that an interior tour is in order. I only saw the outside but it was nice as well! Difficult by bus but maybe not impossible. There is a pilgrimage from Pamplona to Javier every spring called the Javierada which is a lot of fun! The nearby city of Sanguesa is also worth a stop as it has a lot of famous churches.

- El Embalse de Yesa: A big lake on Navarra's southeastern border (a lot of this is technically just over the border into Aragon). Home to an abandoned bath town, Tiermas, as well as a monastary partway up the mountain behind it. All not far from Javier and Sanguesa and likewise hard to do by bus.

- Arangoiti: This mountain in South-Eastern Navarra seems to be a well kept secret. There's almost nothing about it online, but I saw it on a map and realized there was a road leading all the way to the top! If you can make it past the semi-wild horses that roam around up there, you can see for miles and miles, including great views of the Embalse de Yesa, the Leyre Monastary, and the Foz de Arbayun.

- The Salazar and Roncal Valleys: Further east yet the terrain grows quite mountainous and you come to the Salazar and Roncal Valleys, dotted with lovely small towns and fantastic cliffs and canyons. I especially recommend hiking near Burgui or stopping for lunch, souvenirs, whatever in Ochagavia.

- The Pyrenees: Right on the border with France in the extreme east of Navarra, the Pyrenees start rising in real force! There are great opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking etc here - I climbed the mountain Petretxema which was challenging but fantastic!

- The Forest of Irati: One of the great beech-and-fir forests in Europe is in eastern Navarra, high in the mountains and often obscured by fog. The place feels magical and I loved hiking there and picking mushrooms in the fall!

In the Basque Country: 

 - San Sebastian - Pamplona's beach as I liked to think of it, but so much more! It has lovely bright blue, calm water around green islands and hills and a little crescent of a beach, a fun film festival and other cultural events, and the best food in the world. I'm not just making this up - the Pintxo crawling tradition is a must-try! Easy by bus.

- Bilbao - Maybe the most famous nearby attraction due to the Guggenheim museum. Bilbao has its charming areas, delicious food, and, of course, the Guggenheim museum. Easy by bus.

- Vitoria - Actually the main capital of the Basque country, but it seems sort of neglected compared to the two above! It's definitely worth a visit through for its lovely twisty alleys, the escalators that go up some of the streets, the proliferation of artistic murals, the beautiful main plaza, and most uniquely a cathedral that you can visit, with a borrowed hard-hat, while its under construction! Easy by bus.

 - The Basque Coastal Train - You can hop on this in San Sebastian and go all the way to Bilbao, and stop at any little town in between. I especially recommend Zumaia for the awesome Flysch geology along the coastline. You can also take this in the other direction into Hendaye, France.

- Gaztelugatxe - One of the top attractions of the Basque country - an island with a hermitage along a rough part of the Basque coastline. There's a causeway going out to it that you can walk on, which looks like this:,_Biskaia,_Spain_02-2005.jpg In the summer, there are some ways to get there by public transit. In the winter, not so much, although theoretically you could bus to a nearby town and then hike the rest of the way. 

- Other Basque Towns - If I had had more time, I would have loved to visit a bunch of other places in the Basque Country. Briefly, consider going to Guernica (famous for the Picasso painting and also formerly a major seat of Basque power, with a huge tree symbolizing the rights of the Basque people) and Durango (here not a car or a Mexican state but a nice Basque town... I visited for the Basque book fair.)

In Aragon:

- Zaragoza - The capital of Aragon with some very impressive architecture, including TWO cathedrals. It was about the furthest north that the Moors had significant power, so there's a lot of blending of architectural styles and also the Aljaferia Islamic palace. Also great for shopping and for visiting one of the big festivals here. There are plenty of busses going here from Pamplona.

- Canyons of Huesca - This is probably really pushing the envelope as a day trip, but definitely worth a weekend. You can go canyoning (like kayaking... with only a wetsuit) in the narrow, twisty canyons around here like the world is just your natural waterpark. There's also some good hiking, some very old cave paintings, and an absolutely stunning little town, Alquezar.

In Castille:

Burgos - I didn't make it here myself, and I'm sad about it. Although a little far, its quite accessible and is worth visiting for a number of reasons. This is pretty much the epicenter of where the modern Spanish language is said to originate, and its famous for an amazing cathedral and monastery, a towering old city gate, and a new museum of Human Evolution that's supposed to be one of the best museums in Spain.