Travels in Uzbekistan

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<Originally posted by Carl Kasten, who is studying Central Asian Studies in Kyrgystan.  Visit his blog page at http://prokastenator.tumblr.com&gt;

The old city of Khiva. So many excellent stories from this place, so much fascinating history, I honestly didn’t know where to begin.

Khiva is located in southern Uzbekistan. So far south, the horizon there is probably in Turkmenistan. The city is old. It’s dated to between two to three thousand years ago, and has served as the seat of government of the Khiva Khanate, an important stop on the Silk Road and one of the many kingdoms left behind by the breakup of the Mongol Empire.

We had the privilege to tour the Old City, which is contained within walls that range up to thirty feet high and an easy twenty feet thick at the base.

Within the Old City are numerous madrasahs (a sort of school common in the Arabic world) minarets, and palaces. Visible in this shot is the city’s main madrasah, which now works as a hotel, and the incomplete minaret.

The large blue tower is the incomplete minaret. Had it been completed, the minaret would have stood somewhere around eighty meters high based on the size of its base. Unfortunately, the Khan who originally commissioned it was killed before it was completed. His successor/probable murderer allegedly walked up to the top of the incomplete structure, surveyed the city below, and, immediately recognizing that the tower would have a direct view into his bedroom across the street, ordered construction to halt.

The main madrasah has similarly interesting stories surrounding it. The school was home to up to one hundred fifty students at a time. The students were required to study the Quran and Arabic language, but most every other subject was theirs to choose. However, at the end of their three year studies they were required to stand before their lecturers and answer any question on the subjects they had studied. The final question was always the same; “What can you teach us?” Should the student fail to produce a noteworthy advancement in their field they were made to repeat their studies until they could.

Our guide for this area was a local, his family had lived in the city for generations. As we entered the courtyard of the madrasah he took a long look at the rows of doors that lined the second floor and explained– “It used to be that every room was used by two students. Then the Bolsheviks came and every room was used by two prisoners.” A man on the second floor yelled something in Uzbek while desperately trying to install an external air conditioner above the crumbling brick doorway. Our guide just nodded and finished: “And now every room is used by two tourists.”

Adventures on a New Continent

<Originally posted by Helena Scharf, a CSU student currently studying abroad in Spain. Visit her blog page at http://roundthebendrunner.blogspot.com&gt;

I don’t even know how to begin. This trip cannot be described with any adjectives I’ve been able to think of, except maybe one: incomparable. Wait, here are a few more: out of a dream, priceless.

The ferry ride across the Straight of Gibraltar was fun. I’ve never been on a ferry (that I can remember), and this boat was big and pretty dang fancy. So packed full of people excited to take a vacation in Morocco, or excited to be going home. And it only took about an hour, and all of a sudden I stepped off the boat onto a new continent. We docked in Ceuta, which is a Spanish territory, so we were still technically in Spain, but it dawned on me that I was standing on African ground. AFRICA, you guys! Never in my life did I dream I’d be in Africa at age 19. I never pictured myself riding a camel through the Sahara, sleeping in Berber tents, or exploring the medina of Fes. And experiencing this stuff of dreams with so many marvelous humans.

We got a tour of Fes the next day, including visiting the markets, a Koranic school, the Bou Inania Madrasa (madrasa is Arabic for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious), and a Moroccan ceramic workshop, all within the medina (the oldest part of the city). We also visited a tanning shop, actually — where they tan the leather hides of animals to make bags, hats, jackets, wallets, etc. This had beautiful views of the city and the tanning “pots.” Everything about the medina was amazing: the guide we had led us through so many tiny, winding streets — I never would have been able to find my own way around that part of the city!

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I’m so glad I didn’t bring my wallet into the ceramic shop, because I definitely would have spent unnecessary amounts of money on breakable items… It was fascinating to see the artisans creating the ceramic pots, cooking dishes, and even small tiles for mosaics! Those people are incredibly talented and artistic, and do everything by hand — which most definitely takes a lot of time and effort, as was visible in that beautiful shop.

We arrived for a night’s stay in Erfoud after driving through1915674_1021001714613027_3533652868010686296_n snow in themountains. We stopped in an alpine town called Ifrane to stretch our legs and play in the snow! We threw snowballs, and made tiny snowmen. This was more than amusing: we were playing in the snow just one day before we would be in the desert. What differences!

Then we went to the hotel where we’d leave on camels to ride into the dunes of the Sahara. Most people went on an optional excursion (I didn’t want to pay for it, naturally), and there were only nine of us who just hung out at the hotel until everybody else got back. Then we mounted the c12933020_1021014117945120_8712728948941363360_namels. They’re actually called dromedary camels, because they only have one hump. Camel camels have two.

The next day, we visited Asilah on our way from Fes to Ceuta. Have you ever heard of Chefchaouen? It’s known as the “blue city” in Morocco, because of fully-painted blue streets. We didn’t go to Chefchaouen, but Asilah also had some stunning blues and greens. I couldn’t stop myself from taking a photo of nearly every door. But I only saved the ones I truly fell in love with 😉12919713_1021017577944774_7383848976367415768_n

I don’t think I’ve felt so many feelings in so little time. I don’t think I’ve fallen in love with so many people in so little time. This experience was more than I can express with words, actions or photos.

 

 

Excursion to Dublin Highlights

<Originally posted by Ashlyn Keil, an English major at CSU currently studying abroad in Galway, Ireland.  Visit her blog page at https://ashlynabroadblog.wordpress.com&gt;20160207_153057(0)

I went to Dublin as part of the first CEA Study Abroad Program Excursion, and here are all the fun places we visited, along with as many pictures as I could take!

Guinness Brewery Tour

This was the first stop on the tour — and I mean literally. We got off the bus and it was straight to the huge Guinness signs.

And the tour was impressive.

There were 7 floors of information and exhibits — all the way from what the ingredients that are used and the whole process of making Guinness, its entire history (marketing, transports, the famous horse, etc), to a Guinness Academy where you can learn how to pour Guinness properly and receive a certificate.

Oh, and the best views of Dublin that you can get on Floor 7 – the Gravity Bar, which is a circular room lined with windows where ticket holders can get a free pint (or soda, but who would do that on the Guinness tour?) and check out the city from above.

The favorite part of the tour for me (not being a beer lover) was, of course, the cooking section, where I snagged two recipes for Guinness Chocolate Truffles and Guinness Chocolate Mousse.

All in all this was an impressive tour that increased my appreciation for how much care and thought and effort is put into making every barrel of Guinness, even if I won’t be the one consuming it.

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National Leprechaun Museum

This was a fantastically entertaining visit that was right near the center of the city on our first day — how we could not go the National Leprechaun Museum?

Our tour guide was the best I’ve ever had in terms of knowledge, confidence, and all-around enthusiasm.

She yelled, danced, told creepy Changleing stories, and took us through multiple rooms in the museum that depicted different Leprechaun-themed places. If she hadn’t been so great it wouldn’t have been half as fun of a tour.

She taught us about how the stereotypical, international green-clad Leprechaun came out (apparently viewers of the “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” film didn’t remember that the king of the Leprechaun’s was dressed differently than the traditional ones that followed him, and Lucky Charms followed suit, and the image hasn’t changed since).

 

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Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle (or the remaining part of it anyways) was pretty nice, especially in the morning sunlight — our Program Coordinator let us know a little of the history and told us that there are still government offices in use today in parts of it (and the new parts that were built attached to it).

According to the official Dublin Castle website, the remaining south-east Record Tower “functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times” (dublincastle.ie).

I was thinking how long it would have taken to build such a perfect circular turret by hand (the castle was completed by 1230).

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Viking Splash Tour

This was also one of my favorite experiences this past weekend, even though it was quite chilly in wintertime, cloudy Dublin.

This was a new experience for me:  I’d never heard of or even seen a DUKW, which is basically a boat and 4×4 truck developed by General Motors for use by soliders in WWII. The one we rode in was quite old (I forget the date exactly at the moment) but it was in fantastic shape for how old it was.

Go check out their website for all the history on these fascinating contraptions:  http://vikingsplash.com/about-viking-splash/history-of-dukws/

I, sadly, don’t have any pictures for this particular event, since my hands were covered in two pairs of gloves and I didn’t really want to freeze my fingers off taking them off to take a picture with my phone. But that’s what Google Images is for, right?

Our tour guide was fantastic! Hilarious and very well-versed in every site he had taken us to see. He had obviously been doing the tours for some time.

And the best part of this was the Viking yell we had to do (with fists up and a nice, terrifying roar) to each of the “kinds of Celts” that we would encounter while on the road:

  • the Lost Celts (tourists looking at maps)
  • the Unsuspecting Celts (people walking along with their backs to us, not paying any attention)
  • the Cappuccino Celts (people sitting outside enjoying coffee/tea)
  • the Competition Celts (those on the the other tour buses going around Dublin)

Needless to say this was a fun time for us and for the laughing pedestrians that looked up to see us (a lot in cheesy, plastic Vikings caps) “roaring” at them. Best part:  we actually scared a young girl, who laughed and held her hand to her chest as she watched us go by.

National Museum 

This is where the “Perserved Bog Bodies” comes in:  our Program Leader decided that we couldn’t not go see the National Musuem’s exhibit on them.

It was pretty amazing:  actual preserved bodies that had all been murdered in some kind of nasty way (axes, decapitation, you name it) and thrown into bogs only to be found and now put on display.

Visit http://www.museum.ie/Archaeology/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/Kingship-and-Sacrifice for mrore fascinating info!

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Overall it was a great, busy weekend full of fun experiences, and I hope to return to focus on a couple specific places and spend even more time in Ireland’s capital.

The Barca Fam

{Originally posted by Rachel Wertz. She is a Journalism and Media Communication major with a minor in Spanish spending this semester in Barcelona, Spain. This post is from a few weeks ago, but it eloquently captures the complicated feelings of wrapping up a semester abroad. You can find Rachel’s blog directly here.}

Someone recently asked me what my favorite thing about study abroad has been, and I stood there speechless – that’s a loaded question. But I have been thinking about it for a few days, and while I don’t think I could choose a “favorite,” I think one of the coolest things about studying abroad is the people you meet. My friends and family in Barcelona have played a huge role in my experience abroad. They have been nothing but supportive and encouraging, they constantly make me laugh and they remind me just how short life is.

The crazy thing is that we are all such wildly different people. We are a group of people that come from all over the world and have completely unique backgrounds, but at the end of the day we all suffer from extreme wanderlust. We crave change and speaking a different language and trying new things. We are passionate about seeing the world and we are addicted to the thrill of traveling. And while we are all so different, we can come together and love each other because we share a love for travel.

I find if pretty amazing that after spending just a few months with these people, they have had such a positive impact on my life. Friendships happen at hyper speed when you study abroad because you are with the same people all day, everyday, sharing a rare and incredible experience. When you’re living in a foreign country and traveling a lot, you are arguably at your most vulnerable state because you are so far away from your normal – but vulnerability is where friendship happens. If you get along with someone while you’re both jet lagged, hungry, stressed and trying to navigate a new place, that is a lasting friendship right there. You see someone at their very best and their very worst when you travel with them, and that is why my parents have always told me, “travel with the person you want to marry before you marry them.” I really get that now.


With just under two weeks left with my friends in Barcelona, I find myself pre-worrying about having to say goodbye. I know in the back of my mind I am running out of time, and it is making it difficult to say no to anything. (I went out every night this week. Am I exhausted? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.)

People always say “don’t be sad its over, smile because it happened,” and they are so right. It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone, but I am so lucky to have met these people and have them in my life.

Here are some of my favorite pics from the last few weeks of me with my Barca family:

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ISA Cooking Class at La Patente

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ISA Cooking Class at La Patente

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These lovely ladies kept me company when I was on crutches and couldn’t do the walking tour in France. Talk about true friends!

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Having lunch at our favorite lunch spot in Barcelona, Ve De Gust.

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I am so grateful for my sweet host mom, Lluisa.

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This is Alex, my awesome host brother from Berlin and our cat, China.

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Two of my friends from CSU, Hannah and Kevin. A great night out with some of the best people I know!

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my person

Photo Contest Winners: People, Places, and CSU Rams

The photo contest finished up last week. These pictures are definitely worthy of their own blog posts individually, but they are all up for your enjoyment. Some of them are particularly impressive, but across all three categories, People, Landscapes, and CSU Rams, there is incredible imagery.

Category One: People

First Place

Title: “Boyhood: Singing in the Sun“

Location: Nanyuki, Kenya

Submitted by: Janna Coulter

1st-BoyhoodSinging in the Sun-Nanyuki, Kenya

Second Place

Title: The Sinking City

Location: Venice, Italy

Submitted by: Marisa Bromell

2nd-The Sinking City- Water Canal, Venice, Italy

Third Place

Title: Kayaking Tasman Sea

Location: Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Submitted by: Courtney Flynn

3rd-Kayaking Tasman Sea-Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Category Two: Landscapes

First Place

Title: Above the Clouds

Location: Big Hut, Middlemarch, New Zealand

Submitted by: Morgan Toms

1st-AboveTheClouds_Middlemarch, NZ

Second Place

Title: The Beauties of Florence

Location: Campanile Bell Tower, Florence, Italy

Submitted by: Marisa Bromell

2nd-The Beauties of Florence- Campanile Bell Tower, Florence, Italy

Third Place

Title: Elephant Safari

Location: Addo National Park, South Africa

Submitted by: Carissa Stratton

3rd-Elephant Safari- Addo National Park, South Africa

Category 3: CSU Rams

First Place

Title: Rams Take Paris

Location: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Submitted by: Jane Schwartz

1st-Rams Take Paris- Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Second Place

Title: A Different Side of Machu Picchu

Location: Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Submitted by: Ryan Roberts

2nd-A Different Side of Machu Picchu- Huayna Picchu Mountain, Sacred Valley, Cusco, Peru

Third Place

Title: Rammies at the Coliseum

Location: Rome

Submitted by: Gabriela Ponce

3rd-Rammies at the Colosseum- Rome

Get out and gather more pictures Rams!

London: Day Two!

A Lass in Leicester

The second day we spent on the study abroad tour in London can easily be described as the longest day of my life. We saw a lot of amazing things that Tuesday, and while I am so lucky to have seen so many things, it was actually too much going on in one day. Having said that however, let’s get to all the great things we did Tuesday!

Tuesday morning started bright and early with a trip to Westminster Abbey. If you’ve never been to the Abbey I highly suggest doing it in the morning, preferably on a day when there’s a bit of sun, although that’s hard to get, but if you can it only adds to the already amazing experience. I managed to get a lot of great pictures like this:

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After touring the Abbey we walked past the Houses of Parliament, to Downing Street, and then to…

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