Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Daily Life as an Irish Student

Time March 7th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

Life in Ireland, wow, it’s amazing.

Of course, it has its ups and downs, but that’s just life in general. The best part is, every low is “higher” than the lows at home, because I’m here!

The most notable thing about Ireland that differs from The University of Tulsa would be the daily life. Here, I live in an apartment with four other girls, have a 20 minute walk to class, cook for myself, and have to adapt to the weather at any given moment. But hey, I’m learning how to live on my toes!

The best advice I can give to a student who is looking to study in Ireland is to pack with the weather in mind. The Irish students dress up, for classes, but only under their coat and rain jacket! A big hood is a must, layers, a scarf, and although they don’t wear rain boots a lot, when it pours they’re needed. The rainbows are beautiful, the grass is green, the walk to class is reflective as we pass the Irish countryside. Learning to cook has been a bit of a struggle, but luckily the other IFSA students and my Irish roommates are phenomenal chefs!

Daily life of an Irish student involves waking up in a snuggly bed and having to get up out of the burrito, put on some fuzzy slippers, and shower in the morning while the water is still warm. Put on a couple layers, make some breakfast and pack a lunch, double check that my charger is in my bag, and head to campus for the day. As the twenty minute walk is enjoyable with nice weather, I always have my rain jacket and enough homework to keep me on campus if it starts to pour, because the weather changes every 30-45 minutes. Tutorials (larger lectures) and Seminars (smaller discussions) throughout the day, studying and socializing in between, and making sure to keep up with the weekly socs (societies, which are like our clubs) email! Campus is always lively, whether it’s the cafeteria, Smokey’s Cafe, the library, the Arts Concourse, or the campus bar, Sult. With coffee and soup a day, I’m starting to feel more Irish. Hopefully I’ll turn a little greener for St. Patrick’s Day!

But until then, stay warm (and dry)! Read More »

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An English Thanksgiving

Time January 4th, 2017 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Thanksgiving is consistently one of my favorite times of the year. It comes at a very stressful time during the semester, so it’s always so nice to go home for a week, be spoiled by my parents, and eat comfort food. I completely forgot that the English don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (understandably so) and come September I realized that for the first time in my life I would be celebrating the holiday away from my family.

Initially, I was really nervous – truthfully more than I expected to be. My parents even offered to fly me home for the long weekend because my tutorials on Monday/Tuesday allowed me to do so without missing anything important. However, I declined their kind offer because I felt that a part of being abroad is to adapt to new, potentially uncomfortable situations. Being away from my family on a day that I have never been without them definitely fell into this category. Read More »

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Semester Favorites in and around Mendoza

Time December 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina | No Comments by

It’s my last few days here in Mendoza (wow time flies!), so I thought that I would do a wrap-up of some of my favorite places and things to do (as well as some tried-and-true tips and tricks) in and around the city!

Food:

Top 3 places to get ice cream (obviously the most important thing):

  • Bianco & Nero – Any flavor is good to be honest. I went there so often that the woman who works there felt comfortable enough correcting my Spanish…
  • Mailhó – The oreo flavor is my favorite!
  • Ferruccio Soppelsa – Go for the fruity flavors here

Yummy Argentine foods:

  • Milanesa de pollo – Chicken milanesa is most definitely the best of the milanesas.
  • Homemade alfajores – Kiosks sell packaged ones, which can also be good (try Avila or Pepitos brand). But best of the best are homemade with dulce de leche in the middle and coconut flakes around the outside – most bakeries sell them!
  • Medialunas – Pure flaky, buttery yum
  • Tartas – My host family made a lot of tartas (kind of like quiche, but without egg) – my favorite was spinach and chard.
  • Empanadas – Done right, they are absolutely delicious.
  • Gnocchi – In Argentina, it’s good luck to eat gnocchi on the 29th of every month. Not all families abide by this tradition, but mine often did!

Fav packaged snacks:

  • Toddy’s chocolate chip cookies – The perfect cheap cookie (tentative consensus that they’re better than Chips Ahoy)
  • Frutigran cookies – My “healthy” cookie of choice
  • Peanuts – In the search for a healthier and more sustaining snack than cookies or bread, I came to discover a soft spot in my heart for peanuts. I often go for the unsalted just because I eat a lot of salt here already. But other good variations are maní japonés and maní con miel.

5 fun restaurants:

  • Fuente y Fonda – Traditional Argentine food in large portions for sharing.
  • Anna Bistro – Get the vegetable salad with goat cheese pastries!!
  • Decimo Resto Wine Bar – I haven’t actually eaten here, but the restaurant is on the 10th floor of a building so it’s the ideal spot to share a bottle of wine and watch the sun set.
  • El Club de la Milanesa – A good place to take someone visiting Mendoza that has never had milanesa before – huge portions and lots of fun milanesa toppings!
  • Brod – Super fun for a more American-style brunch – definitely get the ginger and mint lemonade!

Places to study/hang/get wifi:

My favorite cafés:

  • Café Petrona – Cute, tea party vibe with an outdoor patio!
  • Café Leon – Simple place, friendly staff
  • Kato Café – The service here leaves something to be desired and the wait staff can get a little snarky, but it’s a good place to study i.e. never too busy, open during siesta, comfy couches, lots of space and plenty of fun (and sometimes distracting…) throwback music
  • Silla 14 – Haha haven’t been but I’ve heard it’s great!

Good places to get free wifi (if like me, your home wifi slowly crumbles before your eyes or you just need to send a text while out and about):

  • IFSA office – Always dependable if you arrive while it’s open (plus air-conditioning)
  • Outside of the IFSA office – The wifi still works when you stand outside of the door!
  • Outside of Starbucks – The Starbucks outside of the IFSA office has wifi without a password, so it’s easy to connect when you’re on the run. I would also recommend Starbucks as a study space – lots of nice tables and chairs, wifi, air conditioning when it’s hot. There’s also more of a typical “college-student studying” vibe going on there than in any other part of the city, which can be nice at times.
  • Outside of McDonald’s – Same deal as Starbucks – no password, so free wifi outside!

Bonus: On the go and need to pee? The Carrefour on Belgrano and Las Heras has free public bathrooms!

Activities:

Tried-and-true things to do (in no particular order):

  • Hike Cerro Arco – The classic thing to do for tourists in Mendoza, but I think it’s worth doing once.
  • Go to all the ferias – It’s always fun to go to ferias artesanales (artisanal fairs) when they pop up in Mendoza, specifically in Plaza Independencia.
  • Try out events in the plazas – I went to an event in Plaza Chile to celebrate Chilean independence and an event in Plaza España to celebrate the Spanish harvest.
  • Take a trip to Chile – It’s a cheap and easy bus journey to get to Santiago and/or Valparaíso – both are definitely worth a visit! I’ve also heard amazing things about the desert in the north of Chile – San Pedro de Atacama – if you’re in the market for a longer adventure.
  • Go to happy hours – Lots of bars and restaurants have happy hours where you can get 2 for 1 drinks or drinks at a discount (Antares has artisanal beer and also delicious peanuts)
  • Sip mate in a park/plaza – Argentines like to “no hacer nada” (not do anything) and can spend hours just sipping mate and chatting with friends – it’s a great way for us Americans to learn how to “take a chill pill” if you will and not be on and doing something every second of the day.
  • Exercise in Parque General San Martín – A great place to take a run (I recommend around the lake) or to go to a free exercise class.
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Christmas Markets

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

Since Scotland does not have the Thanksgiving marker to kickstart the holiday season, Christmas markets started in Edinburgh on November 18th. The markets are full of amusement park rides, Christmas music, festive beverages, and crafty shops. My Colgate friends, Sarah and Liz, visited me that weekend and kicked off the Christmas season with me. Liz and I had an incredible view of the city on the Ferris wheel. Sarah and I shared donuts covered in chocolate sauce.When my cousins visited, Madelyn and I braved the most intimidating ride of the markets. The “Flying-Star” were swings that went as high as the top of the Walter Scott Monument, or about 200 feet high. It was terrifying but we prevailed and celebrated this feat with Bailey’s hot chocolate and mulled cider. The Christmas markets are paradoxical in the sense that they induce a sense of homeyness and homesickness at the same time. I enjoy them but they also make me look forward to Christmas with my family.

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A Scottish-American Thanksgiving

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, College Study Abroad, Ireland, Scotland | No Comments by

November 24th was like any other day in Edinburgh. The grocery stores were not flooded with people picking up forgotten instant stuffing mixes, or that additional can of cranberry sauce, in case one wasn’t enough. Thursday classes were on schedule as normal at the university. No “turkey-trots” were closing the streets in the morning. However, for American students, November 24th meant Thanksgiving (most likely his/her first) away from home. IFSA Butler, my abroad program, threw an American Thanksgiving get-together the Wednesday night before. We had a Ceilidh, with a Scottish band and traditional Celtic dances. I got to reunite with many American students who I had not seen in awhile. However, when I got home, the worst wave of homesickness rushed over me. I come from a huge family of fifty-three (!!!!) cousins and the idea of not seeing a majority of them over this holiday was tough. I missed my parents and of course the many “dad jokes” that surface around Thanksgiving. I called my parents and they comforted me by reminding me that I was lucky enough to have two of my cousins flying in the following day to help me celebrate the holiday.

On Thanksgiving, I met my cousin Madelyn for brunch following her red-eye. We walked around the city a little and then grabbed an “it’s five o’clock somewhere” pint in true Thanksgiving fashion. When Roman, Madelyn’s brother, landed, it was time for me to go to my last seminar of the term. We met back up for dinner and although it was not a turkey with all of the trimmings, it was still an incredible feeling to be with family so far from home. After dinner, I Facetimed into my Aunt Rose’s Thanksgiving party and was promptly circulated around the gathering of roughly thirty of my family members. I even made it into a few pictures through the screen of my cousin’s iPhone. Afterward, Madelyn, Roman, and I celebrated with my American friends in our favorite pub. I am SO happy that they were able to come and spend the week with me. It was a Thanksgiving I will always remember but of course, I am looking forward to next year’s gathering surrounded by my whole family.

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Tick- tock…is it time yet?

Time November 30th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

The countdown has begun! In less than a month, I will be back home, home to the peach state of good ol’ Georgia. I can’t believe time has flown as fast as it has. I’m so excited to be home. The other day as I was cleaning my room, I got inspired and I started to pack. I packed all the winter clothes that I had brought to Peru (there is really no need for them now that it is spring time here). I also packed some of the souvenirs that I have bought from when I went to Iquitos and Cusco. I have yet to be close to finishing with my souvenir shopping, but for now, I’ll pack everything that isn’t breakable into my massive pink and black suitcase. I’m hoping mom will take it back home when she comes to visit me for Thanksgiving break…

In preparation to my leave, I plan to exercise as much as I can because I’m going to be eating as much Peruvian food as I can, because truthfully I will miss it. Peru has a huge variety of fruits and potatoes. My host family is not much of vegetable eaters, so getting back to the U.S. will be good for that reason. The main reason though that I want to be home is that I miss people. Peru is a very (VERY) affectionate country. You are greeted with a hug and a cheek kiss, but it doesn’t fully make me not want to be hugged and kissed by my family and friends. *cough, cough, and boyfriend.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day I go home. It’ll be a good change of things. I’ve gotten used to having my breakfast waiting for me in the mornings, and I need to do my bed more than I should. I also need to eat better. Having a sweet tooth is not good when you are staying in Peru for 6 months. There’s delicious mouthwatering sweets at every corner. Peru is too good for my own good. Haha. I just hope time flies and that final exams are not too stressful! Smooth sailing is the plan. Let’s hope it happens that way. Until then, I’ll keep enjoying Peru.

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A Weekend in Amsterdam

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Scotland | No Comments by

This past weekend, I traveled to Amsterdam with Norah, one of my IFSA-Butler friends. On Friday, we started at the Anne Frank Huis. We waited in line for almost two hours but it was undoubtedly worth it. I felt that the museum was presented so well. Otto Frank insisted that the rooms be unfurnished, leaving only items authentic to the Frank family and their helpers to be showcased. There was a reverent atmosphere, especially in the annex of the top floor of the house.

Following the Anne Frank Huis, we walked down Prinsengracht, a scenic street along a canal towards our hostel. After checking in, we had dinner at an Indonesian restaurant and splurged on a
Rijsttafel, a rice table of appetizer-size portions of meats, seafood, vegetables, egg rolls, satays, nuts, and fruits. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian food due to colonisation, and it did not disappoint. Following dinner, we walked through the Red Light District, the hub of legal prostitution in Amsterdam. It was a surreal, thought-provoking experience that led to good ideas and conversation.

On Saturday, Norah and I started the day with an hour-long canal ride through the city. We learned about the city and saw some of the historical sites. Next, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, my favorite part of the weekend. I loved this museum so much because it displayed Van Gogh’s pieces in chronological fashion. I absorbed his evolution as a painter and as a human. There is a room devoted to letters Van Gogh wrote to his friends and family. I watched Van Gogh dive into the world of modern art and eventually into his manic last stage as a painter. He painted 70 paintings in the final three months of his life. These paintings, showcased on the final floor of the gallery were the most poignant to me. I felt connected to his story and found them to be beautiful. I have seen individual Van Gogh works, but it was especially meaningful to see over 200 consecutively.

The rest of the weekend was spent walking around the city in different restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops! It was a much-needed break from the emotional stress of the United States election and a weekend well spent with a good friend.

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A Typical Week at Oxford: Monday – Thursday

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hi all,

So I’m finally getting into some sort of a schedule here even though each of my weeks has looked drastically different. When I was considering studying abroad, I wondered how my semester would look different than my typical semester at Hopkins. Below is a breakdown of what I would consider a “normal” week:

Monday

10:15 – 11:15 AM – Management Tutorial: I meet with my tutor for my tutorial on Strategic Management. Even though I’m a student at St. Catz, tutors can be based in any college. Even though sometimes that means I have a long walk, getting to see other colleges is really fun. We meet at Mansfield College to discuss the differences between a resource-based view and an industry-analysis. We also go over my essay (which I e-mailed yesterday) and he highlights my strengths as well as places I can improve.

11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch at Home: I go home and make a quick lunch. I’m lucky to have a mini-fridge in my room so I am able to keep some groceries on hand. My room is conveniently located right next door to my floor’s kitchen.

1:00 PM – 4:30 PM – Studying: There are so many libraries at Oxford. I’m pretty certain that if I visited a new one every time, I still wouldn’t see all of them. That being said I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the city by exploring various study spots. Normally back at Hopkins I do most of my work during the evenings, but here it seems most people work during the day and I’m beginning to understand why. The assumption is that everyone is free in the evenings so people get together for dinner, drinks, and all sorts of other events. I usually have large chunks of unstructured time, so I use it to read, write, and prepare for my tutorials.

7:00 – 8:00 PM – Hall Dinner: At St. Catz we’re lucky to have formal hall every night which means I can get a three-course meal for 4 pounds. You have to book your place before 1 PM that day and I usually meet up with some of my friends beforehand. You sit down at long tables, get served by waiters, and share sides family-style.

8:00 – ??? PM –  Drinks at the JCR: After dinner it’s pretty common to grab a drink at the JCR (stands for junior common room which is essentially the name for the student lounge including the college bar) where drinks are school subsidized (my parents thought this was absolutely absurd). It’s a great place to hangout with friends as well as meet new people.

Tuesday

8:00 – 9:00 AM – Breakfast at St. Catz: Our dining hall has a breakfast deal with 8 items for a little over 2 pounds. It’s much earlier than I like to wake up but it’s such a great deal that I force myself out of bed.

10:00 AM – 12:00PM – Staying Up to Date: Even though I’m abroad, it’s really important to stay up to date with things back home. I still consistently check my Hopkins e-mail because I have responsibilities. For example, I am a chair for JHUMUNC (basically I moderate a room full of high school delegates as they simulate a UN conference and pretend to solve world problems…it’s fun) and part of being a chair means overseeing two dais members (assistant chairs) as they write a background guide. I wrote my portion over the summer, but my committee got an additional member in the fall so I’m responsible for allocating work and reviewing what they write. Additionally, I make sure to stay up to date with logistical things such as course registration and trying to figure out my housing for when I return.

3:30 – 4:30 PM – Philosophy Tutorial: I meet with my primary tutor for my tutorial in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This woman is so inspiring, so intelligent, and so unbelievably kind – every time I leave a tutorial I realize my cheeks hurt from smiling the entire hour. Compared to the U.S. system in which I attend 2-3 lectures a week where and the learning is spread out, here all the learning is condensed into one weekly meeting for an hour. Because it is one-on-one, the entire session is dedicated to your personal needs and you are expected to have completed a substantial amount of work prior to each meeting. You are assigned a substantial amount of reading and required to submit an 8-9 page essay the day prior. Unlike in the U.S. where sometimes it is possible to get away with not reading, here that is not the case. My tutor will ask me what I thought about each assigned text and since I’m the only one there, it’s not like I can hope someone else answers. Luckily for me, my tutor is amazing and she makes our meetings totally comfortable and relaxed.

Wednesday

10:00 – 11:00 AM – Recommended Lecture: As a third-year humanities student, I don’t have any required lectures. In fact the thing that is mandatory for me is attendance at tutorials and since they’re one-on-one meetings with my tutor, it would be very clear if I didn’t attend. However, my philosophy tutor recommended that I attend a specific lecture that correlates well to our text. Since I only have 2 hours of required learning a week, I had no hesitation to attending this lecture. In addition I’ve regularly been attending two other lectures simply out of interest (which is entirely recommended and common). I really like going to lectures because it helps provide structure to my otherwise largely unstructured weeks.

12:00 – 1:00 PM – Out for Lunch: There are TONS of restaurants in Oxford, so even though the dining hall can be really convenient, it is important to get out and explore the city – specifically the city’s food. I recently went to Thai House and ate some great thai food. Additionally, there are great small sandwich stops and the food trucks are almost always a good decision.

3:00 – 5:30 PM – Consulting Career Fair: Something that I didn’t even think about until I got here was utilizing Oxford’s career services. There are so many events happening from the very first day of classes. Because Oxford encompasses such a wide range of colleges, the resources are equally as broad. There are events every day ranging from resume critiques, networking events, career fairs (for every industry), and more. Furthermore, since Oxford is a prestigious university it attracts so many different companies and (at least at the consulting fair I went to) a majority of them have a strong U.S. presence or at least have U.S. offices.

Thursday

9:30 – 10:30 AM – For Fun Lecture: Something really cool about the learning culture here is the strong belief that if you want to learn, you will. This is evident in the fact that many lectures aren’t required, but also in the fact that most lectures are open to anyone who is interested in them. I have looked into lectures in fields of study that I have never even considered before. Additionally, since it is not required you can go some weeks, skip other weeks, add new ones, drop other ones and there are minimal rules except for one: if you decide to sit in on a lecture, you can’t leave half way through. It’s considered exceptionally rude. Just sit through the rest of it and don’t go next week!

12: 30 PM – Weekly Lunch with Jilliann: Jilliann also goes to Johns Hopkins and she is at Oxford (St. Anne’s). Even though we have a lot of mutual friends back at JHU, we’ve only really spent time together after we flew across the Atlantic. Now we have weekly lunch dates to reminisce about our absurdly long nights in the library and how huge Oxford is compared to Hopkins. It’s such a great way to feel connected to home when I’m so far away. She definitely helps the inevitable homesickness :)

2:00 -3:00 PM – Housekeeping: I was completely dumbfounded when I learned that our accommodation (dorms) comes with housekeeping. Once a week a very nice lady vacuums my room, cleans my bathroom, takes out my trash, and changes my bed linens (for my staircase it’s on Thursdays). I was so surprised that the very first time she knocked on my door and said “Housekeeping!”, I responded “…what?” Since then we’ve become friends, and I love not having to wash my sheets because laundry is expensive here! When I return back to my freshly clean room, I can’t help but feel guilted into doing my part. I tidy up my desk, go do my laundry, and wash the many empty cups of water that accumulated over the week.

6:30 – 8:00 PM – Dinner & Networking: As someone who is considering going to law school, I joined the Oxford Law Society. A large component of the organization is being able to attend all kinds of events held by law firms. Many of these events have dinner or drinks as a component of the evening (again the casual drinking culture is still so strange to me). It’s a great way to meet other students with similar interests, meet potential employers, and get a free meal. Win-Win-Win.

Obviously this isn’t a schedule in a strict sense because many of the things I did this week are one time events; however, I will likely attend similar events next week. In some ways the weeks are very stable. I don’t have midterms/exams, so my studying hours are relatively stable compared to back at Hopkins. On the other hand, everything else I do is completely flexible. Since this post is extremely long, I will make a separate post about a typical weekend: Friday – Sunday.

Until next time,

xx

Zaya

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Food Update: Chilean Must-Have’s

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Chile | No Comments by

When you come to Chile, there are typical Chilean dishes that you absolutely have to try. While I haven’t covered all of the bases yet, here is a list of some of my favorites so far:

(We can skip empanadas because that’s pretty much a given!)

Pisco Sour- One of my favorite alcoholic beverages. (PSA: The drinking age is 18 in Chile but remember to drink responsibly). It’s considered the national drink and is made of pisco, a type of liquor, citrus, and sugar. If you love sweet tarts, you’ll love this.

Pastel de choclo- Think chicken pot pie, but way better! Inside there is beef, chicken, and vegetables, but the top is covered with a sweet and scrumptious corn paste.

Sopapillas- Little fried pillows of fried dough, these savory little treats are great for an afternoon pick me up while on the San Joaquin campus of U Católica. At only 150 pesos, they cost less than 25 cents! My friends love these ones. While I like them, I prefer those of my host family’s nanny. Homemade is almost always better.

Mote con huesillo- A light dessert, this dish is sold all around Plaza de Armas, but it is easy to find a little cart that sells them all over Chile. It is a sweet drink filled with wheat grains and rehydrated dried peaches.

Completos- One of my favorites! It’s like a hot dog, but way better. (See my previous blogs for more detail). My favorite is the Italiano, with green avocado, red tomato, and white mayonnaise. They call it Italiano because those colors are the same as the Italian flag. Clever, huh?

More to come!

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All About Foooood

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, LGBTQ Correspondents | No Comments by

La comida argentina, in all its forms, has been one aspect I’ve consistently enjoyed while here, so good I’m dedicating this whole entry to bragging over how good it is. Hope you’re reading this with a full stomach!

Desayuno: The “most important meal of the day” is super light here in Argentina, typically consisting of just toast, jam and fruit. Then there’s coffee. Café or commonly café con leche is served in a smaller quantity than in the states and is actually not as strong, only meant for a morning boost. Nevertheless as a coffee addict, I enjoy it anyway, either at home or at one of the millions of cafés scattered around the city. It is commonly served with two or three sweet medialunas, or croissants, and a small glass or orange juice or seltzer.

Almuerzo: The first real meal of the day is much more filling. Many days I’ll stick with good old pizza– here it can be compared to Chicago style pizza- thicker with loads more cheese. One thing difficult to get used to: eating it with a fork and knife. It felt almost degrading the first time. Something else different- drinks in glass bottles. It’s a nostalgia factor, plus you can taste actual sugar in Coke and 7 Up, though you always pour it into a separate cup to drink from. Some days I’ll eat two or three empanadas, either filled with meat, chicken or my personal favorite cheese and onion. You can find these nearly everywhere and are reasonably priced. Choripán– chorizo meat between two buns. Condiments sometimes put on top but the meat is so flavorful it’s really not necessary.

Cena: the biggest meal of the night, although in the typical Argentine household, it’s typically not eaten until 10 or 11 at night! Thankfully because Marta is older we eat at 8:30 or 9. Still, especially in the beginning, there were times I needed to eat an apple before so I wouldn’t lose my mind. Starting with the most sterotypical- carne! I freaking love it here. There’s not a week that goes by without eating bife de chorizo or lomo at least once. Some of it could actually be comparable to what is served in the states, but it’s so much cheaper here, usually $10-15. Often times at steak houses or parillas, they don’t even ask how you want your meat- the huge slabs of meat will satisfy anyone. Pasta here has much less sauce, but the noodles themselves are often homemade and you can really taste the difference- definitely some of the best I’ve had.

Postre: There is one desert that towers over the rest: dulce de leche. This caramel-like sauce is often so sweet I can’t eat too much of it, although in small quantities is quite satisfying- often inside churros here with a little sugar sprinkled on top…the absolute best! Helado– a national obsession. I didn’t know ice cream was so popular in BA until I came a herredia on every other street. Again, the Italian influence is strong. It’s more comparable to gelato, with a higher quality and more flavorful. Even with a cone, people eat it with these small colorful spoons, another little thing that was strange to me. Nonetheless it is some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

Miscellaneous: 

Alfajores- small cake-like chocolates available in every café and every kiosk with dozens of different kinds and companies. You can expect me to come to class with three of them stuffed in my pocket to give me quick energy during the day.

Maté– omfg my absolute favorite food I have discovered here. I love it so much and it seems like everyone here loves it too. You can see people drinking this tea in parks, at work, on trains and in class. Maté is drunk from a small cup which is filled about 2/3 with the herb, or yerba, filled consitantly with hot water, sometimes cold water during warmer months. Consumed with a straw called a bombilla, you know it’s good when bubbles appear when you pour the water, a sign of nutrients being released. It has amazing health benefits and apparently more caffinne than coffee, which I can certainly attest to. It’s definitely an acquired taste, especially if you’re drinking it for the first time. Sugar and even an orange slice helps mitigate the inital bitterness. I love it, and I love the whole ceremony around it where people pass the maté cup to each person in a group. I am determined to bring some back to the states with me.

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Top Five Mouthwatering Restaurants In South Bank.

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

We all know that the only reason students go abroad is to eat delicious food and take pictures of it for Instagram. So, to make sure you guys knew where to get the good stuff in Brisbane I decided to turn into a restaurant critic for a day. From date night to experiencing a new world or just enjoying some comfort food, here are the five places you need to eat at if you live in South Bank, Brisbane:

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Adjusting to the Day to Day

Time September 21st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Ireland | No Comments by

Apologies for the belated update, for classes are officially underway and the school year has officially begun!

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A Craving for Sweets and Experiences

Time August 8th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Peru | No Comments by

Today’s blog is about how I discovered my self-awareness of independence as a 20 year old college student while studying abroad in Peru. This discovery was all thanks to my tremendous sweet tooth.

Its 9:23 p.m. and I am craving a donut. Luckily, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts stand less than 5 minutes away from my house. Even though my host family’s house is near a busy street with loud noises from the constant traffic, living here has some perks. There is a super market with a Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds stand, two pizza places, a gas station, a cute, always crowded bakery, a pharmacy (which I’ve already had to visit twice), and a Scotia Bank (thank God). I basically have everything I could possible need a few blocks away. Read More »

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Chilean Food vs. Food in Chile

Time June 6th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, Chile, College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Food: It’s the reason we wake up every morning.

In lieu of exhausting my thesaurus in search of sixteen synonyms for “yummy,” I’ll take a more sociological approach to analyzing the Chilean foodscape. Fair warning: you’ll see terms like “culinary imperialism” more often than nonsense phrases like “tantalizing garnish” or “a filling salad.”

Let’s start with a Chilean anthropologist’s definition of food:

Los alimentos son algo más que nutrientes, son signos mediante los cuales las distintas comunidades comunican sus sistemas de prestigio y poder, sus creencias, así como el sustrato valórico que legitima las jerarquías y estatus de las personas y de las cosas. — Prof. Sonia Montecino Aguirre, “Conjunciones y disyunciones del gusto en el sur de Chile

In short, Montecino says that food is more than nutrition. It’s an expression of a community’s beliefs as well as a system of prestige that legitimizes the status of people within that community’s hierarchy. So what does the food here say about Chilean society?

Doña Maria

“Preparing an authentic Mapuche meal.” Photo: Daniel Bergerson, 2015.

Well, there is a difference between Chilean food and food in Chile. The first is the canonized cuisine of a colonial society blending indigenous (mostly Mapuche) and European (mostly Spanish) traditions, while the second is the modern-day menu that one can actually find on supermarket shelves and in the streets of Santiago.

Most travel writing describes Chilean food rather than food in Chile, so I’ll start with the former and leave the culinary imperialism for dessert.

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Let’s talk FOOD

Time June 1st, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

As the semester is coming to an end I just want to take a moment to recognize the delicious food that the UAE and the region has to offer.

I am not going to show pictures of any of the food from fancy restaurants that I have been to, but rather the street food that I have frequently and prefer most of the time over the places in Dubai Mall, The Marina or JBR. These places only require less than 10 dirhams a person to have a good meal or sometimes just a small snack.

My favorite place in all of Sharjah is Karak Road. Karak Road is right outside of campus is frequented by students here. Karak road is simply the road leaving campus towards Emirates 311 to Dubai or downtown Sharjah. The road is lined to one side with the desert and the other side has tea shops, burger places, Middle Eastern places, tailors, shoe stores, Chinese places, and random cafeterias. My favorite place to stop is Khabeer al Shay, the big tea in English. They sell karak, barata, smoothies and many other things. Karak is a kind of tea that has milk and spices added. They sell a small for 1 Dirham and a large for 2 Dirham. The larges have a lid, so I usually go for those. Barata is wrapped snack, view the pics to see them. You can get anything you want inside of them. Popular mixes are: cheese and honey; cheese, hot sauce, and chips; and cheese, hot sauce, chips and a hot dog. They are all really good and don’t sell for more than 4 dirhams a piece. If I had my own car I would be at Khabeer al Shay daily, but even without one I find myself there more days than not!

Another place on Karak road is called, On the Wood. On the Wood is a Lebanese restaurant. That is where I buy my manaeesh and Shawarma sometimes. the manaeesh is pictured above. On the Wood is also only a few meters away from Khabeer al Shay, so you can order at On the Wood go get tea and come back to pick up your order, all with out leaving your car.

The semester is coming to close and I have about 10 days left in the UAE. I am sad to go, but excited to be home at the same time.

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This Weekend in Pictures (mostly)

Time September 17th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Huaca Pucllana

We visited, an archaeological site from the Wari culture (500-1000 AD) that was right in the middle of Miraflores on Saturday.

Huaca Pucllana

Huaca Pucllana

It was a fun and interesting tour.  And when I say ‘right in the middle of Miraflores’, I mean like this:

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Also at La Huaca, an obligatory alpaca pic:

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Mistura

My orientation team, the Gringos Greenos

My orientation team, the Gringos Greenos

Back in orientation, my team won free one-day tickets to Mistura, a two-week long food festival that was amazing.  It had the vibe of a small scale Lollapalooza or similar music festival, except the focus was (obviously) on food, and the bathroom lines were more reasonable.  It was right on the beach, and there was even sun!

Mistura!

Mistura!

I spent 7 hours there, eating and sampling all different sorts of food, and only spent about an hour not walking from food booth to food booth… I was watching a live food-network type show.

Some foods I ate:

  • Guinea Pig – tasted like dark turkey meat
  • Alpaca – tastes like a really lean steak.  Bien rico (really good).
  • Lots of Ceviche  – probably one of my favorite foods of all time… my host mom is going to teach me how to make it on Saturday!
  • Leche del Tigre – the juice of ceviche (lime, spices, seafood, other stuff).  It tastes like standing on the edge of a windy cliffside overlooking an erupting volcano.  Mildly addicting.
  • Shrimp soup
  • Sushi
  • Fried rice
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate
  • Maricuya Sour (really good Pisco drink)
  • Tons of samples of chocolate, coffee, and other random things

I spent more money than probably any one else that I went with, and felt a little guilty… the total cost was about $30.

Peruvians are extremely proud of two things: food, and the Incas.  I haven’t been to the Andes yet (I’m going next week), but the pride in food is definitely well supported.

The APPETIZER of a great meal I had today for about $2.70 (partially eaten)

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The Super-Good Birthday Cake Alexandra Brought Today (partially eaten)

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Asides

I have only gotten one legitimate and specific question about American culture while I’ve been here (not including the standard broad ones like “What is the US like?”), and it was concerning the portrayal of ‘Southerners’ in South Park.  Of the many Peruvians I’ve met who have been to the US, the majority have been only to Miami and Disney World.

I saw a Radiohead cover band at a bar this weekend.  They were quite good.  Also, in an effort to further emulate the band, they never talked to the audience, and didn’t play “Creep”.

Probably the most glaringly obvious example of machismo I have seen in Peru yet.  This is a normal can of spray paint:

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I was talking to somebody in one of my classes today, and he told me about this video.  It’s awesome.

Beautiful Day

Summer almost here!

Summer almost here!

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Diary of a Picky Eater

Time August 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

What a week it has been! I have safely arrived in Merida, Mexico and my journey abroad has officially begun! Every day is a new adventure in this beautiful city. However, the food is even more an adventure. Before I left, my mom was worried that I would not be able to eat anything in Merida. My family and I have been vegetarian since I was three years old. On top of that, I am the pickiest eater alive. Before coming here, I hated quesadillas, a lot of vegetables, and trying things was usually out of the question. I would jokingly say, “I’m a visual eater.”  My mom was scared that not only I would die of malnutrition here, but also embarrass her in front of my host mom. I can’t tell you how many times she said to me before I left.

However, the food here has been wonderful! In the mornings, before I go to class at the university, my host mom gives me cut up fruit with cereal or a waffle. Papaya has been one of my favorite fruits to have in the morning because of its usual taste. Lunch and dinner are a completely different story. In the states, I usually don’t wake up for breakfast, but here I have to. Lunch isn’t ready until about 2 pm! I’ve been trying my hardest to shift to this schedule, because most of the time I don’t return home from the university till 2 pm anyways.

lunch

Lunch in Merida

 

As a vegetarian, I do eat fish for protein. My host mom is a great cook, so I have literally been in love with every single thing she has made me to eat. I especially look forward to lunch because the fish is so great! Soup is also a regular at lunch despite the humidity. I’m still getting used to how hot it is here!  Dinner is also not served until around 7:30-8:00 pm. While lunch is my biggest meal of the day,  dinner looks a little bit more like breakfast. Usually, I ask for yogurt and apples which has been my absolute favorite meal here. In the states, I absolutely hated quesadillas. I refused to eat any, even though they are a popular late night meal for students at my university after late night studying. However, my taste buds have done a complete 180 here in Merida. I could not ask for a better cook as a host mom. It’s great that I can already notice some growth in my character and I’ve only been abroad for a week! I’m also hoping to lose a few pounds after the freshman fifteen wasn’t so kind to me, but that’s another story. 😛

dinner

Dinner in Merida

 

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Hotsprings, Hiking, and Hangliding (and wine): One Heck of a Good Time in Mendoza

Time July 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Guys: traveling is so so cool.  I know this is not a new observation, and I’m sure that as humans we have been exploring and pushing the boundaries of our known worlds at least as long as recorded history.  But I’m finally discovering this feeling for myself, and it’s wonderful.  The bug is real (the travel bug that is), and after my most recent trip I’m already planning on how I’m going to scrounge up the funds for another adventure.  Maybe I’ll just become a wandering minstrel…

On this travel note, last weekend, I went to Mendoza with two of my best friends here: Ali and Morris.  They’re the best.  However, the timing wasn’t, considering the trip was planned for the weekend before all of my parciales (FINAL EXAMS), so my trip was going to eat into some pretty important study time.  But, since we were taking Omnibuses to get there, this meant had a 15 hour drive to hit the books.  

(Plus, now that I’ve finished all of my parciales, I would like to report that they went SWIMMINGLY.  This note is for you, parents)

Yet despite the small cloud of academic worry that hung over us, we entered the weekend with high hopes, and we were not disappointed.  Not in the slightest.  Mendoza was, though not as visually striking as Patagonia or Salta, the best place I have traveled to in Argentina.  I was in heaven.  

Mendoza is gorgeous, a mix between the Sierra Nevadas and Napa Valley with a hearty dose of the Andes Mountains thrown in.  The weather was absolutely perfect; mid-sixties without even a hint of anything less than sunshine.  Is it even winter here?  We hiked all around her foothills while breaking every rule that I’ve ever learned as a hiker (we didn’t bring enough water, we didn’t tell anyone where we were, we went slightly off-trail, and we had no real destination or plan on getting home).  We also paragliding off the summit of Cerro Arco, and spent an afternoon perusing the many parks, fountains, and a few of the art museums that the city had to offer.  

Mendoza is delicious; I had probably the one of the top 5 desserts in my life (a chocotorta, in a splendid restaurant called El Mercadito), as well as some delicious wines, salsas, and liquors.  One day, we did the popular bike-wine tour; we took a bus out to wine country, rented some bikes, and spent the day tasting some of Mendoza’s best offerings.  We went to big wineries (LaGarde), small wineries (Carmelo Patti), organic wineries (Pulmary), and places with everything in between (A La Antigua).  

Mendoza is tranqui.  For a large (9.5 million people live in the city and the surrounding area) place, Mendoza doesn’t appear overly bustling in massive.  People smile more than they do in Buenos Aires, and the city pretty much shuts down every afternoon for a siesta.  It was a winning combination of the exciting buzz of a metro area with the comforting feel of a smaller town.  We also took a day trip to the Cacheuta Hot Springs with some British friends who we met at our hostel, and it was a day of fantastic food, peaceful soaking, and striking views.  I couldn’t have asked for a better last day in Mendoza.  I couldn’t asked for a better trip to send off my time in Argentina.  

If you want more of Mendoza, you can check out some pics below.  They’ll tell you more than my words could.

Also, on a separate note, I couldn’t really have asked for a better hostel than Hostel Mora, the hostel that happily housed us in Mendoza.  (Cue shameless plug here).  Hostel Mora served us breakfast to-order every morning (fo’ freee), which included EGGS (something that they never serve for breakfast here, and I had been missing), dulce crepes, fresh fruit, and a variety of pastries.  But, in addition to that, I adored the folks we that we met and spent time with at the hostel.  There were Alex and Becca, an American couple who were traveling the world after Alex sold his startup company.  Nick and Charlotte were a British couple who had been traveling in southern South America and were freaks about soccer.  Remy was an Australian girl my age who had be traveling for the better part of the last 5 months on her own, and had just spent a few weeks in Brazil at the World Cup.  And, of course, best for last were Oli and Dan, a pair of best friends from London who were on a gap year in South American and became our best friends in Mendoza.  They were a hilarious one-two punch who are low-key social media celebs.  Between shenanigans in the hostel, a dinner adventure, and quality times with a waterproof camera at the hot springs, we certainly made some great memories together.  I hope that I can visit them in London one day. In my experience, hostel dwellers are by and large pretty cool, but these ones were the best that I’d met so far.  It made me want to travel more.  

Now, I’m back in Buenos Aires.  I survived my examenes finales, have fanatically supported the USMNT with random gaggles of Americans throughout the city, and am starting to get sad about leaving.  As of now, I have 5 days left in Buenos Aires.  What the hell.  Also, my summer job just fell through due to restructuring in the company I would’ve  been working for, so after this stint as a blogger ends I’ll be officially unemployed.  Looks like Craigslist is about to become my best friend. 

Keep it real, stay classy, and take care.  I’ll write again soon.

Dylan

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Empanadas de Salta

Time June 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Geez, I’ve certainly been traveling up a storm recently!  When we last left off, I had just returned from the Argentine Patagonia (check my story out HERE), and I barely had time to catch my breath in Buenos Aires before gearing up for my next trip, which was to the city of Salta in the extreme Northwest tip of Argentina.  My friends and I scored a sweet deal on the travel and accommodations with the same travel agency that took us to Calafate, and after kissing my host family goodbye (it seems as though I had just said hello to them), I was on a plane to the high-altitude deserts and rugged Andes Mountains of the north.  

Before I had left, my host Dad took me aside and advised me that Salta was famous (food-wise) for its empanadas, tamales, and wine; and he urged me to try all three.  So, after landing, dropping our stuff off at the hostel (and saying hi to the kitten that lived there), we set off in search of delicious and authentic Salteñan food and drink.  Our trusty Lonely Planet app steered us towards a restaurant called Doña Salta, which, while kitschy (the waiters dressed up like Gauchos), had extraordinary food and wine.  I sampled the empanadas (which are more like empanaditas; they’re pretty small in the Salteñan style) with delicious dried meat only found in Salta, and enjoyed my first bites in a long time of  tamales (yum!).  I also had Locro, which is a lamb stew popular in the Northern regions of Argentina.  The food was all rich and hearty, which proved to be a theme for all the food that we ate that weekend.  It seemed appropriate for chilly and mountainous region in which we found ourselves, and my tummy certainly didn’t mind.  We told ourselves we would crash early that night since we had a tour planned at 7 the next morning, but since we are silly college students who were stoked to be in a new city, we naturally didn’t sleep much that night (note: this is a very consistent theme for this trip, and I probably averaged only four hours of sleep a night #restandrelaxation?).  

The next morning found us excited if a little exhausted, and we had barely shook the sleep from our groggy eyes before we had hopped onto a combi (a giant van-type vehicle for carrying larger groups of people) and began our photo adventure to Cafayate, which is a wine town tucked into the nape of the Andes.  We had a van photo/food/informational tour planned for each day, and each tour that we took had a different mood depending on who our fellow riders were. Today, the mood was ENERGY.  We were with a crew of middle-aged women from Mar del Plata (shoutout to the first city that I ever traveled to in BsAs) who liked to have fun!  That day was the birthday of one of their members (Ramira), and I lost track of how many times we sang “Cumpleaños Felíz” during that drive.  We also saw amazing vistas, drank yummy pink wine, enjoyed some llama empanadas, and I bought an alpaca sweater.  The women were wonderful company, they were tickled pink that we were American but spoke comfortable Spanish.  We ended that day with quick stroll into a canyon for our last photo stop, and while we were there a ukelele player took full advantage of the acoustics of the canyon with a few tunes, which inspired our new friends to dance wildly and sing along.  Then, the ladies from the sea gathered us all into a circle and we prayed for Paz Mundial.  #blessed.  What an amazing day.  

Day two (Saturday), however, was the one we were all waiting for, the (longggg) day trip to the Salt Flats of Jujuy.  After staying up way too late the night before (again) with our new friends from the hostel, we crowded into a new van with a new crew and hit the road for the Salt Flats.  If yesterday’s theme was energy, then today’s was absolutely adversity.  The day started auspiciously enough; we met some cool new friends who were staying in Tucumán and took some enthusiastic photos with us next to the Train to the Sky.  However, after one of our first photo stops, our guide couldn’t get the car in gear (basically every vehicle is stick-shift here), and he turned to us and explained that without the ability to shift gears, our car wouldn’t be able to drive.  We had no radio, no cell service, and no idea what to do.  Our guide, fortunately, happened to be a mechanic, but after taking apart the whole front panel of the The mood of the group rapidly began to sour until another combi trundled along and we were able to flag it down.  After about an hour (from when the car broke down to the end of the tinkering), our driver had jury-rigged the gearbox cables together with a piece of wire from the toolkit that the other combi had.  And that jury-rigged system lasted the ENTIRE 12 hour day, including some really rough driving.  Color me impressed.  But broken-down autos aside, that Saturday was also obscenely windy, and the towns that we visited were all out in the open and duuusty.  By the time we finally pulled up to the salt flats, most of us were tired and ready for the attraction that we had traveled so long (about a 5.5 hour drive thus far) to reach.  However, the flats were absolutely worth it.  We braved the wind and took a ton of goofy photos, and afterwards we hopped in the car and passed around some mate.  Between the excitement of the salt flat and the mateína, the mood and morale definitely improved.  Still, we were a ways away from Salta when we were at the Salinas, and it was a long haul back home.  When we finally made it back to our lodgings, darkness had long since fallen, and hostel food had never tasted so good.  

Finally, for our last day, our van tour promised us a trip to Cachi, which is another tiny mountain town that is known for both its goat and having spawned a former Argentine president.  To get there, we drove up a winding mountain road that offered spectacular views of a cloud-cloaked Salta.  The were cacti everywhere, and between the hardy desert plants and the color of the soil, I felt like I was in Tucson, Arizona (a town I know and love).  On the drive up, our affable (my personal favorite) guide introduced us to the mountain tradition of coqueando, which means the process of chewing coca leaves.  While each leaf contains a minute amount of cocaína (yes, the stuff in cocaine, but it’s more like caffeine than anything else in the leaf form), our guide assured us that people chewed these leaves the “help with the digestion”, before opening his mouth and cramming about 500 leaves into it.  Oh well.  However, our guide also asked if anyone in the car (which was populated today by a bunch of retired Argentines.  We, like every other day in Salta, were the only Americans in the car) if they wanted to perform music with him at the restaurant in Cachi.  Someone volunteered me (granted, I would have volunteered myself if given the chance), and before I knew up I was perched in front of a crowd of elderly Argentines singing Creedence Clearwater Revival (I forgot a verse but just made up the words in English and they were none the wiser).  I also ate goat for the first time.  Fantastic day.

And then, a god-awfully early morning flight later, I was back in Buenos Aires with some fantastic memories (and a lot of homework that needed doing) under my belt.  Once again, I felt incredibly lucky to travel, and I had spent the weekend with some of my favorite gringos that I have met during this program.  Plus, we were all photogenic and avid photographers, so between the 6 of us we probably took about 1000 photos.  I assure you that I made sizable cuts to get to the 88 photos that I’m posted here.  What a fantastic weekend.

Now, I’m in Buenos Aires and World Cup fever is in full swing.  I’m writing this while watching Colombia beat Greece and doing my best to balance academics with soccer (soccer might be winning).  It’s hitting me a little harder each day that I only have 3 weeks left in this fantastic country.  Definitely not ready to leave.  Not yet.  I no doubt will write some overwrought and unnecessarily verbose reflection when I end my days here, but until then, I’ve still got some more adventures.  Mendoza this weekend!  See you on the other side!  Dale, vamos!

Dylan

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Under The Skies of Patagonia

Time May 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi all, and pardon the tardiness of this post.  I just couldn’t be bothered to write a blog last Friday, and then I felt guilty about it so hashed one out over the weekend, but I didn’t want to post it until the next week, so I could at least stay somewhat consistent with my schedule.  Anyway, I miss you all, thanks for reading, blah blah blah, etc.  

Where we last left off, I was just about to head to El Calafate, which is a tiny, quirky little tourist town in the Patagonia region of Southern Argentina.  I was only there for a few days, and it was one of the shortest out-of-town trips that I had taken while in Argentina.  However, it was probably my favorite.  Patagonia is a landscape unlike any I had ever seen before in my life.  It defies description: it is both a high-altitude steppe, a glacial valley, a striking mountain range.  As Walt Whitman might say, “It contains multitudes.”  It is stillness, it is chaos, it is majesty.  As I flew in, I was glued to the plane window with my new Mexican friend/flightmate, unable to take my eyes off the colors, the contours, the vastness.  There’s a reason why people creating unceasing poetry, music, and art about this place.  There’s a reason it has inspired countless hikes, adventures, and an internationally famous clothing brand.  Patagonia isn’t really like anywhere else.  It is an untainted, unpretentious place.  It doesn’t need to be told how striking it is.  Patagonia is a kind of beauty that deserves to remain unbothered.  

So, naturally, I came barging in, dragging with me a crew of international students (Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Italians, and a Spanish girl). Like everything beautiful and perfect left in the world, the tourists flock there.  El Calafate, despite receiving a pretty hefty crowd of people each yeah, manages to still seem undisturbed and tranquil.  And boy, was that a blessing after Buenos Aires.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still adore my beloved BsAs, but after so much time spent in a city this semester, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get away from the bustle.  When I stepped off the plane on the Patagonia runway, the air was clean, crisp, and quiet.  Buenos Aires isn’t a terribly smoggy city, but I forgotten how lovely cool mountain air was, especially after so much time spent in smoke-choked alleyways.  It reminded me of home, of my mountains, of my favorites places in Colorado, Wyoming, and Washington.  

Just that in itself would’ve made my trip down South Worth it, but the fun hadn’t even begun yet.  Our hodgepodge crew of international students and our travel agents checked into our hostel around 3 in the afternoon, and then we spent the rest of the day exploring before our big glacial hike the next day.  Some IFSA friends and I went down to the nature reserve (which had been recommended heartily by my folks), and we spent the afternoon wandering around the beautiful and well-kept reserve.  We snapped photos, bird-watched, got spooked by some wild horses, and skipped stones on the glassy face of Lake Argentino.  For a landscape oft-soured by contentious weather, our still and peaceful afternoon was a cool massage from the chaos of Buenos Aires.  Later, we dined on Patagonian Cordero and some spectacular Malbec, and after dinner some friends and I wandered around the streets of the town and looked at the stars.  As Crosby, Stills & Nash would have us remember, “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand why you know came this way.”  After so much light pollution in Buenos Aires, the Southern sky was particularly spectacular.  However, we had a massive and exciting day planned for the following day, so crashed early in preparation for that.

The next day was simply spectacular.  I really don’t even feel as though words can describe it.  Or pictures, for that matter; and even though I’m including some of my favorites for y’all to get a glimpse of what I saw, I don’t really know if I can adequately express what made my day in El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares such a magical experience.  Perhaps it was the hoarfrost that lay just so on the trees, rocks, and grasses that zipped past us on our bus ride into the park.  Perhaps it was the event staff playing “Thus Spake Zarathustra” as we first glimpsed Perito Moreno, the 3rd-largest and fastest-growing glacier in the world.  Maybe it was colorful scars in the mountain that the glacier had carved out during its recession post-Ice Age, or perhaps it was the blueness of the massive wall of ice that loomed out between the peaks and the forest.  From the wind-kissed boat ride to the crampon-laden glacial hike to the Andean condors that kept us company to the whiskey with glacier ice, it was the kinda day that I hope to remember forever.  I felt grateful, alive, vigorous.  To anyone reading this that was involved, in any part, in getting me to Argentina, to Patagonia, to this glacier, I thank you so deeply.

And now, I’m back in the city.  Have been for a little while actually.  It’s honestly grown on me so much, and each day I’m here I feel exponentially more comfortable.  My Castellano is improving so much, I spend more quality time with my host family every day, I’m meeting cool and new Argentine friends, and it seems like every time I leave the house I run into a new and fun experience.  From watching the final of the Champions league in a crazy pub in San Telmo to discussing the finer points of Argentine modernist cinema over a cup of coffee, this place keeps both my intellect and my enthusiasm sated.  Yes, school is amping up as all my friends gallivant into summer vacation, and I was super bummed to miss my friends graduate, but I’m happy here.  I love it here.  And I don’t wanna go back, at least not yet.  

Besos,

Dylan

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Lemons, Dedos, and Water: My Adventures in Uruguay

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hey world, and thanks for tuning in.  I hope things are going well for you, wherever you may be :)  I’m sure you’ve all been quivering with anticipation since my first post where I mentioned Uruguay, and so now, after long last, I shall finally write about it.  

HOWEVER, my one disclaimer is that the pictures that you will be shown are not mine, and they have been shamelessly stolen from sites on the Internet.  I took some lovely photos while I was in Uruguay, but managed to lose my phone on one of our many bus rides, so all of my photos were tragically lost. That said, though, I’m going to try and include photos of all of the places that I went, so you can get an idea of my visual journey.  But anyway, on to Uruguay!  Dale aventuras!

Uruguay is a gorgeous (albeit a tad bit more expensive than Argentina), peaceful, and fun country, and it is only a quick jaunt over the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires, making it a popular destination for many Argentinians with the means to travel there.  IFSA had set everything up for us (and very generously too, I might add), and as this excursion was one of the three times that the entire program group got together (the other two times being orientation and our closing ceremony), it was pretty fun to see everyone in the program who I hadn’t seen in a while.  We had all come a long way from our overwhelmed selves during orientation, and I enjoyed hearing of everyone’s unique scene in Buenos Aires.

Our boat silvia-ana745x cruised across the river, fueled by caffeine and the excitement of 80+ American students, and we were in Uruguay in no time!  From the dock we hopped on a couple of big buses to our first stop: Colonia!  Our host and program director, Mario Cantarini, had generously offered his house for us to stay and frolic, and that afternoon was probably one of my fondest memories of my trip so far.  Mario’s “house” is a boutique hotel/lemon farm/place so beautiful I could see myself getting married there, and it was only a few blocks away from a beautiful beach on the Rio Plata ima1 Heaven.  We feasted on emapanadas, choripán, fresh fruit, pie, artensanal bread, and some of the most delicious meat I had ever eaten.  We splashed around in the pool, played soccer on the hotel’s front lawn, and then cooled off by sprinting down to the beach and jumping into the river.  At the end of the day, we bussed into the center of town (Mario’s place is on the outskirts) to check into our hotels for that night.  

Colonia has a ton of history and is a World Heritage Site, and we took a tour to check out some of the old (they’ve been around since the 1600’s) buildings. colonia-uruguay The town was super safe, quiet, and peaceful.  Stray dogs (who are neutered by the city so that overpopulation doesn’t run rampant.  Fun fact) run around, barking at cars, and the air buzzed with the sound of birds and insects.  Some good friends and I feasted on paella and jazz music, and then went down to the river bank for stargazing, fireflies and good conversations.  After the breakneck pace of Buenos Aires, the peace and quiet of Colonia was cool water to my parched and chapped nerve-endings.  

The next day, we were up early again to scamper off to Punta del Este, which is one of the biggest resort towns in the area, and was much more built up and touristy than Colonia.  modopuntadeleste Argentine author Rodolfo Rabanal describes it thusly: “Los turistas se marañan sus calles peninsulares durante el verano. Pero en invierno, edificios telar vacío, como si en los talones de una alerta atómica, mientras que barrido gaviotas y cormoranes negros que anidan en las grietas de mejillones rellenos de caminar por las calles” (“Vacationers snarl its peninsular streets during the summertime.  But in Winter, buildings loom vacant as if on the heels of an atomic alert, while scavenging seagulls and black cormorants that nest in mussel-filled crannies walk the streets.”)  As we were there in the fall, the streets were mostly free of the snarling vacationers, and it was a pretty odd experience to wander the hotel-laden streets that seemed to offer everything except people.  

We certainly, made the most out of Punta del Este, though.  IFSA (praise be unto Them) put us up in some sweet digs that were equidistant from three different beaches, and they also paid for some spectacular restaurant meals of fresh calamari, fish, and carne de vaca (the former two are some delicacies that are uncommon in Buenos Aires, and they were happily welcomed by my palate).  Punta del Este has some gorgeous beaches, the Dedos de Punta del Este, and some very fun beachfront nightclubs.  la_mano_de_punta_del_este_toma5_big Shenanigans, surfing, and silliness ensued for the next few days, among which included: Bodysurfing in torrential rain, meeting a professional-level breakdancer and dancing with him and a club, and spending a lot of time in the complimentary hotel bathrobes. Before I knew it we were back on the waterbus to home sweet Buenos Aires.  It had been an amazing adventure in a gorgeous country, and despite the comparably terrible exchange rate, I can’t wait to get back to Uruguay.  But, until then, there is always LOLLAPALOOZA (see my next post 😛 )

I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and I assure you that one day I’ll catch up to what I’m doing currently.  Classes have been excellent so far, though.  I’ve watched a truckload of excellent peliculas, spent many an hour toodling around on REAPER (a free sound-editing program) building “sonic stories”, and have met a bunch of fascinating and diverse South American students.

Besos,

Dylan  

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London

Time November 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello!

This past weekend I went to London to visit a friend of mine who is studying abroad there at Goldsmiths College and to see one of the biggest cities on the planet. I arrived in London at Stansted airport on Friday evening. I navigated to the bus line to get downtown where I met my close friend and another student studying abroad from our home university (Lafayette College). We decided to head back to my friend’s flat at Newcross Gate to get some grub and so that I could drop off my valuables. I first got an Oyster Card (similar to D.C.’s Metrocard) so that I could use “the tube” and other of London’s public transportation systems for the weekend. London’s public transportation system is massive, composed of a network of underground rails, overground rails, and bus lines criss-crossing the city like a spiderweb every few minutes. Upon reaching Newcross we got food at a Caribbean joint called “Cummin’ Up”. The store was owned by a cheerful, plump Jamaican lady boppin’ to a reggaeton soundtrack. Her glassy eyes and languid mannerism suggested something aside from the music was on her mind as well. The jerk chicken with beans and rice was incredible, likely the best I’ve ever had. The entire area of Newcross Gate seemed to have a number of Caribbean inhabitants based on the people we passed in the streets and shops. Combined with the other neighborhoods marked by a variety of distinct cultural influences from North Africa, India, Asia, and the Middle-East, London lives up to its reputation for being a diverse city.

The next morning we headed downtown to the heart of London to begin our self-devised tour of the city. We started at the Borough Market, one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Stalls of vendors crowded by multitudes of customers milling about the market created a boisterous and cheerful atmosphere. Vendors were selling everything from fresh ingredients to full meals as well as everything in between, if it was food related – you could probably have found it there. Being in London, I decided to get a meat pie; the one I chose contained chicken, gravy, leeks, and stilton cheese, although there were many others to choose from including seasonal pies. It was piping hot and absolutely divine. Next, we started walking down to the bank of the Thames River where we would cross and continue on to our eventual destination of Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. Just as we reached the bank we happened upon Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. It was very pleasant to see since Shakespeare was a good sized component of my high school literary education. Not far from there we reached the Millennium Bridge, an entirely pedestrian bridge spanning the Thames. From there we gained a fantastic view of the famous Tower Bridge, the Spire, and much of downtown London. We continued across the bridge towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. As we reached the main road on the North side of the Thames we encountered a parade for what we gathered was the British equivalent of Veteran’s Day. We stopped to watch as it passed for different groups within the parade seemed to represent an evolution of Britain’s military. The first to go by were modern military men in big vehicles, then well dressed cavalry, riflemen, lancers, followed by a progression of other groups each approaching a colonial manner of dress. We continued West along the riverbank. We could then see “The Eye” across the river and Big Ben in the distance. As we grew closer the true size of Big Ben became apparent; Big Ben is indeed quite large. We finally reached Big Ben after some time and next to it is Westminster Abbey. Both of these structures were spectacular. After much gawking among other tourists we continued past the naval war rooms and on again to the Mall and Trafalgar Square. Trafalgar Square was very nice with a large fountain near its center and ornate columned buildings surrounding the square on three sides. Two statues sat on pedestals opposite the gate to the Mall and on to Buckingham Palace. Upon one of the pedestals sat a large, regal looking lion. The other position was held by a large blue rooster; apparently this pedestal is visited by a number of circulating statues periodically. We walked down the Mall again, this time towards Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace was very ornate with a large statue of Queen Elizabeth I in front. From there we continued on to Hyde Park where we saw Prince Albert’s Theatre and the Prince Albert Memorial. The memorial was an open structure with a giant figure of Albert upon a throne of sorts under its roof. This was my hosts favorite place in the city, the park is very nice, and the memorial is visually stimulating. Hyde Park, apparently, used to be the royalty’s private hunting grounds, but now there would be hardly more than pidgeons to catch there. Kensington Palace seemed very nice from the outside, but it was getting late, dark, and they had stopped accepting visitors for the day. That night we had Indian food at a small restaurant near my friends flat in Newcross Gate. The curry I had was very good, although surprisingly mild. My friends tikka masala was also very good and had a very strong coconut flavor that was particularly enjoyable.

Sunday morning we woke up so that we could explore the Camden Market before I had to get to the airport. The market was larger than the Borough Market, but included more shop vendors than food vendors. I saw vendors selling suitcases, watches, leather goods, books, photography, art, music, and wooden wares among many others who sold clothes and other knick-knacks. Apparently, Camden caters to a very hip, punk crowd of youth among other demographics. There was an abnormal number of tattoo and body-piercing parlors in the area on the street as well as matching punk/metal styled clothing shops. One place in particular emanated electro-punk and was certainly the most eccentric store I’ve ever been inside. This place was named “Cyberdog” and from the outside one could hear loud music and see neon lights flashing as two giant robotic figurines stood watch at the entrance. IT was three full floors of neon shaded glasses, tight-fitted clothing, and very colorful (in many senses) pierced employees and customers. It was, as my friend echoed, “an experience”. All in all, I found London to be a lively and diverse city offering good food, art, music, history, and people. The only drawback I could find was that the exchange rate on currency was fairly high. London is expensive. However, it is definitely somewhere I will return to visit and that I may considering living in at some point in my life.

Cheers,

Wesley

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Thirsty for beans

Time July 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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Above: A typical meal in my Liberia host family.

 

It is hard to overstate the importance of rice and beans to the Costa Rican diet.  I have rice (white) and beans (black or deep red) with every meal.  I’m not sure why, but for some reason at breakfast it’s called “gallo pinto” (“black-and-white-speckled rooster”), the difference being that the rice and beans are cooked and served together instead of cooked separately and served side by side.  They say there’s some added flavoring, but I can’t say I really notice any cracks in the monotony.

Said monotony was the subject of a few lighthearted complaints during orientation week.  I held back, afraid of how five and a half months would ever pass if I started complaining after five and a half days.  Instead, I’ve set my mind to drinking rice and beans like water.  I hope to internalize the monotony until I fail to notice it having any taste, while at the same time yearning for it to quench my hunger.

I am inspired by one of the many stories my mom tells of her time in the Peace Corps in Honduras, which together account for much of attraction to Latin America.  In this story, she is at at fancy meal with her friend Chico.  The meal is “fancy” because it has meat, a rare treat for poor farmers.  But Chico says, “Even with meat, without my rice and beans, it’s like I haven’t eaten.”

So far, so good.  I haven’t gotten bored of rice and beans, and I think I’m even learning to love them more.  They elicit a sort of contented nostalgia.  That’s probably because we used to eat them a lot when we were little, when we had Salvadoran babysitter.  But I like to imagine that there’s something in me that is remembering what it is like to coax corn out of the strained slopes of Vivistorio, Honduras, something that won’t be full until he’s had his rice and beans.

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caution and cooking

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

everyone getting ready

On Saturday, IFSA gave us a cooking class at a culinary institute! It was really cute how they equipped us with chef hats and aprons, plus the staff was really nice. After we were decked out in our cooking gear, Chef Gustavo taught us how to make flan, the most amazing meat ever, sauces, and empanadas. We received tips and anecdotes while helping him roll the dough, stuff the empanadas, etc.  It was slightly torturous to constantly smell and watch great looking food when we had to wait…. But finally, after three hours (at least, it felt like three hours), we got to eat our DELICIOUS meal. The sauce was beyond amazing and everything was muy rico! 

the chef hard at work

After our meal, we received “diplomas de asistencia” (basically, certification of helping/completing the class), signed by the chef.  Adorable!

empanadas, ready to bake

sizzling MEAT

everyone avidly listening to chef gustavo...or just waiting for the food!

flan con dulce de leche

elena and nicole excited for the food

FOOD

On to a more serious note….in general, I feel safe here. While I was away in Chile and Bariloche, I genuinely missed Mendoza and felt a sense of familiarity and belonging when I returned from my trips. Although I admit that there have been several times when I should’ve been more careful (for example: walking home alone late at night), I have been very lucky.  There were also several instances when we were out at bars and restaurants when we had to be extra careful of the children that kept coming up to us, repeatedly asking for money and trying to join our table. But apart from that, Mendoza is like any other city. You should stay alert at night, watch your belongings, etc. However, since I’ve encountered nothing bad, and since my time here feels like a perpetual vacation, it’s hard to stay serious and cautious at all times.

I was walking to the IFSA office last week, and I was about two minutes away when suddenly, a woman shoved me up against a wall and put a knife against my throat. Strangely enough, I was too shocked to absorb the seriousness of the situation. I couldn’t believe that I was getting attacked DURING the day, in a safe and yet one of the wealthier neighborhoods! More so, I felt like I was in a dream….unable to register that this woman, casually walking down the street, was threatening my life just so she could grab my personal belongings. It’s impossible to describe exactly what I was thinking…..but I was too scared, enraged, and unsure of what to do. I looked at her blankly, pretended not to understand her Spanish so I could buy more time. I started screaming at the top of my lungs, nearly shrieking: “Why are you doing this? Ayuda! etc.” Eventually, she looked at me disgustedly and stormed off with just my headphones (lucky for me, my headphones were actually broken, with only the left side working), nothing else. I feel extremely fortunate to have come out of that situation unrobbed and unharmed. Especially since that day, I had my wallet, camera, ipod, AND my passport in my backpack! Dios.

From that point on, I stopped carrying anything valuable. I’m obviously not going to let this incident affect my time here, since all of the amazing people I’ve met  clearly outnumber the one bad person who attacked me. I’m not exactly paranoid, but this incident has definitely made me more cautious. Just some tips I’ve come up with from the situation: never carry anything valuable (if you have to, keep it hidden or carry copies of important documents), always walk on the main road, always try to walk with someone else late at night, try not to look scared/lost/confused, be alert, cross the street when you’re suspicious, and remember that if you have nothing to protect yourself, screaming helps! It’s always wise to think twice since petty theft does occur here (and like any other city). Although this was definitely a wake up call, it doesn’t change the fact that Mendoza is a beautiful and wonderful place! Could this have been because of the super luna this weekend? 😛 I swear I’m not superstitious.

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10 British Foods

Time April 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For the most part, British food is the same as American food, but there are some foods that seem unique to the British palate or are food obsessions.

1) Curry
In Leeds, there are curry shops everywhere! Some of them are chain restaurants, like Jaldi-Jaldi, but the smaller takeaway (carryout) shops dot every corner. Chicken Tikki Masala is the #1 British food right now, not fish & chips (I’ll get to that later). For those of you who don’t know what curry is, it’s an oriental dish that is made of bite-size portions of meat simmered in a sauce & served with rice or noodles. The sauce is what makes it curry, and it’s full of spices and usually thick. I absolutely love it! My perception of its popularity may be a little skewed though, since my second family has a Jamaican heritage and likes things spicy (in general, the British are known to have a bland palate). I don’t think curry is very popular in the US, but if you want to try something new & amazing, find a good Indian restaurant.

2) Potatoes
I live in catered student housing, meaning I eat most of my meals in a cafeteria. So I’m not positive whether potatoes are a British food obsession or of they are just trying to fill is with carbs. Either way, they serve them every night & occasionally at breakfast. Most popular are chips (our equivalent to steak fries), but we also have them boiled, mashed, mashed then deep fried as fat stick, served as hash browns, or oven baked to crispy goodness. They haven’t served scalloped potatoes yet, so maybe that is an American thing.

3) Fish & Chips
Fish & chips is to the UK what pizza is to the US. If you don’t feel like cooking, get fish & chips takeaway. Skip the ketchup (ok, only sometimes…I still love the sweet, tangy dip), and go for salt & vinegar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a sweet chili sauce. All the above are delicious!

4) Pastries
When I hear the word pastry, my thoughts go towards a sweet dessert. Here, pastries are often meat filled and served for lunch. Instead of stopping at McDonalds for a quick bite, find a local pastry shop. Prices are really cheap, although its not the healthiest option, and you can eat on the go. While you’re there, see of they also sell flapjacks. Flapjacks are not pancakes, but rather oat bars, and extremely good!

5) Mint
Mint is something I would consider unique to the English palate…or at least it doesn’t really fancy mine. It’s most often served with lamb, as a dipping sauce or baked into the gravy of a mint pie. I’ve tried both ways, and neither was really a favorite, but perhaps it’s just me.

6) Tuna
Growing up, we didn’t eat a lot of tuna, so maybe that’s why I don’t fancy it. But tuna seems to be on every lunch menu here. They serve it traditionally on a sandwich…but the huge shocker for me was a tuna jacket potato. Jacket Potato = Baked Potato Why would anyone in their right mind want tuna on a baked potato? Curry jacket potato, yes please! Chili jacket potato, yum! Cheese jacket potato, yes! Tuna jacket potato……..what?!?

7) Scones
Loveliness! That’s all I need to say. In the US, I was used to the dry, hard, triangle shaped scones served at Starbucks that definitely must accompany a drink, but are good none the less. Here, scones are much lighter, softer, and just plane delicious. They remind me more of a sweet biscuit, which Britain doesn’t really an equivalent of. Biscuits & gravy is a crazy concept to them, because what they call biscuits we call cookies (or tea biscuits), and they don’t often use a white gravy. I was so happy to introduce that recipe to the Miller family! Nana & Pops, you would be well received in their house!

8) Spreads
The British love sauces and spreads! At the grocery store, a full isle will be dedicated to fruit preserves, chutneys, and other sauces. At a really nice restaurant we went to for Rachel’s birthday, once they delivered our meals the server came back with a plate full of spread & sauces for us to put on our plate. Oh, and they have marmite, which is a dark brown, sticky, salty, & savory spread made from yeast extract. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s common knowledge that you either love it or hate it.

9) Custards
Pudding (which refers to dessert in general & not just the milk-based food) is often served with a custard, yoghurt, or other sauce to pour on top. It doesn’t matter if it is cake, pie, brownies, or sometimes fruit…drench it! I personally love this, since brownies in a bowl of milk and tres leches cake are some of my personal favorites. Ambrosia is a popular brand of rice puddings & custards that I love.

10) Italian-Style Pizzas
Although there are some US chain pizza restaurants (Pizza Hut & Dominos), I think Italian-style is more popular. By Italian-style, I mean thin crust and amazing toppings. I think I prefer it this way, because the toppings are usually fresh & the main attractions, as opposed to focussing on lots of crust, sauce, and cheese. But I also miss stuffed crust…which in my book reigns supreme.

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