Castles, Markets, Churches and a Stone-cold Kiss

(Originally posted by Katie Virostek, a junior at CSU studying abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  You can access her blog here: https://travelingwithoutmymomanddog.wordpress.com/page/2/)

Saturday I took a day trip to Blarney Castle and Cork City, which is in the very southern part of Ireland. The day started very early at 8:15 am — I have quickly realized that when I return home and back to American people time I will have a very, VERY difficult time getting used to waking up early. My earliest classes here are at 10! After about a two hour bus ride, which I definitely napped during, we arrived at Blarney Castle. We started the day the only proper way- with much needed tea/coffee and scones at the tiny local hotel. Once the caffeine kicked in we made our way onto the castle grounds to explore a bit. Blarney Castle is the home of the Blarney Stone, which you can kiss once you walk to the top of the castle. Because our tour group consisted of 150 students, it took us about 45 minutes to actually walk the 100 stairs to the top and kiss the stone. To kiss the stone you lay down on your back, hold on to two iron bars with your hands while a worker holds on to your hips, lean your head all the way back, and MWAH! Kiss the stone. I actually really enjoyed doing this, even though it looks really scary. Those who kiss the stone are said to have bestowed upon them the gift of eloquence. I will leave that up to you to decide if it’s true or not.

Because we had to wait so long in time we didn’t have time to properly explore the rest of the grounds, which includes a lake, fern garden, and water garden. We did survive the Poison Garden, which contains a wide array of poisonous plants. One that I came across and found rather humorous was cannabis, which is illegal in Ireland. A totally unexpected find for me. Our leader joked that this is probably the only place you could find it growing and not get in trouble for it. I’m not going to touch on that subject any more though.


After Blarney we drove another half hour or so into Cork city, which has the River Lee running through it. Cork is a lot bigger than Limerick and the term “city” is more appropriately used to describe it than Limerick.  We got lunch at Cafe Mexicana, where I had some incredible enchiladas. We then visited the famous English Market, which is like the Milk Market but for Cork and a bit nicer. It contains some of the best foods from all over the world, including some ice cream that I got post lunch.

Once we finished up at the English Market Sally and I walked to St. Anne’s church, which houses the Shandon Bells and Tower. You actually are able to climb the tower and ring the bells yourself, but we got there too close to closing time to be able to do that. The tower itself though is pretty iconic, and we enjoyed the walk over.

I’m excited for fall to start here! I’ve seen some amazing pictures of fall in Ireland, and I cannot wait to experience it firsthand.

Photos of Adelaide

Nicole Aranci is studying Marketing and a Creative Writing at CSU and will be spending the next semester in Adelaide, Australia. Her blog can originally be found at http://nicolearanci.wordpress.com/.

[Photos originally posted between March 26th and March 31st]

Rainy Days!
This was taken upon emerging from Central Market, umbrella in hand!
Nicole Aranci 2

Central Market
Most Saturdays you can find me in the central market, where food prices are much cheaper than a grocery store, the variety is endless, and everything is fresh.
Nicole Aranci 3

View from Mount Gambier
The sun finally broke through the clouds when we reached the top of Mount Gambier.
Nicole Aranci 4

Glenelg Pier at sunset
The pier extends into the horizon in this shot of Glenelg Beach at sunset mid-March.
Nicole Aranci 5

Vietnam

Kim Selinske is a sophomore at CSU majoring in History with minors in Political Science and English. She will be spending Spring 2014 on a ship sailing to vibrant destinations such as Japan, China, Burma, India, South Africa, Morocco, and England. Keep an eye out to see where she is headed next! Her blog can originally be found at http://seafaringstudent.tumblr.com/.

[Originally posted March 1, 2014]

We pulled into Ho Chi Minh City at noon on Valentine’s Day, and my
America in the World class immediately debarked the ship and headed on
our field lab. Our professor, Bob Brigham, worked on the normalization
efforts between Vietnam and the US after the Vietnam War, so he is very
invested in Vietnam. We went to 3 museums in the city: Ho Chi Minh City
Museum/the Museum of Revolution, the Reunification Palace, and the War
Remnants Museum. We were supposed to look at what kind of image the
ruling party in Vietnam is putting forward, but each museum was
interesting on it’s own. We were also accompanied by Ambassader Thuy,
one of Bob’s longtime friends, who is the Vietnamese ambassador to Panama.

The Ho Chi Minh City Museum had 2 main exhibits that looked at how Ho
Chi Minh City has grown, and then 2 that tracked the city’s history
through the French invasion and the Anti-US Resistance. This museum was
small and kind of strange. It didn’t seem like it really worked
together, but it was beautiful. We also saw a couple taking their
wedding photos in the main entrance of the museum, which is apparently
the tradition in Ho Chi Minh City.

Next, we went to the Reunification Palace. This building was the “White
House” of the government in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, until
two tanks from the opposition crashed through the gates and took the
power. This building was absolutely gorgeous. It was fascinating to see
how lavish each room was, when the common person was barely surviving
just outside the gates during the war. It was very interesting to see
all of the maps of the territory of South Vietnam and where they were
bombing. All of us were a bit confused to see that the South Vietnamese
government was bombing their own territory, but it was a great lesson on
how backwards the war was.

Last, we went to the War Remnants Museum, which was by far the most
valuable thing I did in Vietnam. You walk into the museum, only to be
greeted by an entire floor of Peace Posters. Instead of harboring
bitterness towards America, the museum focuses first on peace being the
goal. I thought it was very similar to Hiroshima in how they handled the
crisis. The top level had two large exhibits that focused on the War of
Aggression and on Agent Orange. Both exhibits were absolutely
horrifying, but I learned so much. They also had a chunk of one of the
old forts and some of the old tiger cages that they crammed prisoners
into. I actually started feeling sick to my stomach wandering through
here, though I couldn’t tell if it was from all of the horrific
pictures, or if it was from the sudden heat and humidity, since we had
just come from the frozen tundra of China.

After the War Remnants Museum, we went to Nam Phan, a upscale Vietnamese
Restaurant. Bob knows the owner, because the owner was the first person
with a license to sell silk in Vietnam after the war. Now, he owns
Khaisilk, the nicest and most expensive silk store in Vietnam. According
to Bob, this guy now owns “half of Vietnam,” including multiple other
restaurants, hotels, and stores. Anyway, Nam Phan had some of the most
delicious Vietnamese food! We had these amazing baked ribs with garlic
flakes on them, and I probably could have eaten just those for the rest
of the week in Vietnam. I also got to sit next to Ambassador Thuy, who
was more interesting than I could say. He talked a lot about Vietnam’s
education system, and then he would lean over and show me pictures of
his family, and then he would sing a song or two. He was adorable and it
was a bit hard to believe he was an ambassador sometimes.

The second day in Vietnam we went and got measured for tailored dresses.
Then we wandered towards the market, stopping in at this cute little
bookstore with canvas posters and tons of Disney and Miyazaki products.
We wandered into the Ban Thanh Marketplace, which is an indoor
marketplace with aisles that barely fit one person. This is also the
place where I bought the “gypsy pants,” or the loose cotton pants. I
swore I would never buy them because frankly, I thought they looked
ridiculous. But after one day of walking around Vietnam in jeans, I
caved and bought a…. few pairs of the loose pants. After the
marketplace we found a Korean & French cafe with some amazing pastries
at amazing prices! Yay for inflation? Less than $3 for a full meal at a
fancy bakery is a nice change of pace from the expense of Hong Kong.

Then we wandered around the city, seeing the huge Post Office, some
weird parks, and another marketplace. We found boba (!!) and then a pho
place off the beaten path and it was wonderful! We made our way back to
the Rex Hotel where the shuttle picked us up to take us to the ship. OH!
That’s what I forgot to tell you!

Traffic in Vietnam is HORRIBLE. It’s absolutely crazy and almost
everyone rides motorbikes. No one really follows traffic lights, and
stop signs are entirely ignored. To make it across the street, you just
have to step off the curb (just not in front of one of the few
cars/buses) and walk straight. Hold your head high, don’t look at the
traffic, and keep an even pace! If you change pace, they WILL run into
you. You get a little adrenaline rush every time you cross the street
because you hear motorcycles zooming past, right behind you, and then
you see the ones barely missing you as they speed in front. It’s a fun
time.

On the third day, I left bright and early for Cat Tien National Park.
This is one of the 6 biosphere reserves in the world, and it was a 3
day-2 night program. There were only 9 of us on the trip and it was
perfect. I roomed with one of my friends, Lia, and one of my other
friends Jason was right next door. We stayed in these “cabins” which
were concrete buildings with 4-6 rooms in each. Our beds came equipped
with pastel blue bug nets, though I still was bitten about 12 times over
the course of the trip (despite wearing bug spray the entire time). They
have a restaurant on-site at the main area of the National Park, which
is really convenient. They first day we took a boat down the river
(spotting birds along the way) to a small village of native Vietnamese
people, and then we took a truck ride back to the main station for the
National Park. This car ride was amazing—it felt like being on the
Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland! It was essentially a pick up truck
with two benches crammed in the bed of the truck. It went super fast and
we had a blast, though the car was too noisy, so it scared away the
animals we were supposed to be looking for. That night, we went out on a
Night Safari and saw a lot of deer, some boars, and a handful of other
small animals that are native to the region.

The next day we woke up very early and took a 10km hike up to Crocodile
Lake. The hike wasn’t a hard hike, it was just the heat and humidity
that got to us. The hike was worth it though, because both the forest
and the lake were beautiful! When you arrive at Crocodile Lake, you walk
across these bridges that don’t look like they could support one small
person, much less a bunch of hikers all at once, but it supported
everyone all the way to the little elevated rest house. When we arrived
though, the rangers were washing off a pig’s head in a metal basin. It
was really strange and we all just tried not to look. A group of us
ended up paying to go out into these rickety canoes onto the lake
(filled with crocodiles, mind you) and just take it all in. It was
absolutely gorgeous, and hey, we didn’t get eaten by crocodiles!

The next day, we packed up all of our things and took a small boat
across the river that outlines the national park, and visited the Dao
Tien Endangered Primate Species Center. It was absolutely amazing to see
how they rehabilitate gibbons and slow loris and doucs. It’s not a large
preserve for them, but it’s constantly growing. It was really
informative and probably my favorite part of the entire field program.

We left from there and drove the 4 hours back into Ho Chi Minh City.
Since we got back rather early, my new friend Brooke and I decided to be
history nerds and we went to the Rooftop bar on the roof of the Rex
Hotel to have a drink at 5 o’clock like the American reporters did
during the Vietnam War. The drinks were expensive, strong, but not very
good. It’s all about the experience though, and I can say I experienced
the “Five O’ Clock Follies,” which is something to tell as a history
teacher.

The last day, I ended up picking up my dress and hanging out with some
of my friends. We found a supermarket at the bottom of an upscale
shopping mall (YAY) and then we found Blue Moon Spa. We did a fish
pedicure. It was horrible. OK, let me just say that I hate the idea of
fish touching me, so having a bunch of fish swarm my feet, not even
counting their flesh-eating tendencies, terrifies me. And then you add
in the fact that these fish want to eat my (dead) flesh and it’s just
weird. It took me and my friend 5-10 minutes to actually hold our feet
in the water. That was probably the weirdest experience I’ve had this
entire trip, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. From
there, we had to head back to the ship, but we crammed a lot into the 6
days we were in Vietnam! I can’t wait to go back and see places like Ha
Long Bay, Hanoi, and the Mekong Delta though!

New Delhi: Everything I feared and hoped India would be

Jennie Maydew is a junior Art major and is spending one semester in Hyderabad, India.

[Originally posted August 23, 2013]

New Delhi is an area in the city of Delhi and the capital of India. With 22 million residents, Delhi is the fourth-largest city in the world and the largest in India in terms of area. It’s a modern metropolitan city with a punctual metro system and a bustling, busy population. Its architecture and city layout is heavily influenced by the British and the city as a whole differs from Hyderabad greatly. Ambitiously we chose our destinations, and in three days we did Delhi!

In sum, New Delhi was the manifestation of the image of India I had before coming here. It was everything I feared and hoped India would be. Tight and crowded streets lined with shops and homes above them, markets overflowing with people and goods, bicycle rickshaws whipping through the streets. Dirt and dust, color and texture, noise and odor. From spending a few days there the only conclusion that I could draw is that Delhi is a fascinating place.

We stayed four nights in Delhi on the topmost floor of a hotel tucked behind a series of alleyways. Travel publications accurately labeled the area around our hotel a ‘tourist ghetto.’ One of the strangest things about Delhi was to see tourists everywhere (Hyderabad isn’t frequented by many outsiders). Seeing another foreigner is like looking in a mirror, and it really puts my image in perspective. Because New Delhi is a popular destination for tourists, the locals are determined on pushing tourist scams. I’m proud to say never once did we fall for any, but these acts were much more apparent than they are in Hyderabad, and became irritating quickly.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple

Our first day in Delhi we arrived early in the afternoon and took the clean and efficient metro to the Baha’i House of Worship. Also called the Lotus Temple, this non-denominational place of worship offers a silent interior space for meditation or prayer, and was nestled around greenery and tranquil pools. Its architecture reminds me of the Sydney Opera House. Afterward we took the public bus to Dilli Haat, a crafts and cultural market. Bargaining at Dilli Haat is critical, especially because tourists are notorious for succumbing to bloated prices. We’ve learned a lot from bargaining at markets in Hyderabad, and regularly get items for less than half of the original offer. But because New Delhi’s markets have so many tourists, the vendors are reluctant to lower their prices, knowing another tourist will come along and pay the price the vendor wants. You never know how far your bargaining skills will get you, but there’s usually another shop down the way selling the exact same product if you don’t get the price you hoped for.

Dried fruits piled high in Khari Baoli; the numbers are the price per kilogram in rupees

Dried fruits piled high in Khari Baoli; the numbers are the price per kilogram in rupees

While in New Delhi we visited the Crafts Museum, a destination I couldn’t leave without visiting. The textiles there were stunning—ikat, brocade, bandhani (tie-and-dye), block prints, embroideries, and kalamkari tapestries that lined entire walls. It was all so beautiful that I took a hundred photos until the staff told me it wasn’t allowed. Oops! Although it was amazing to purely look, almost nothing in the museum was labeled, so it’s difficult to put into context most of what I saw. I’ll be researching Indian textiles for my independent study, so I hope to learn more about the pieces I saw in the museum.

One of the oldest markets in India, Chandni Chowk was a must-see for our Kate, Rhia, Romi, and I. This market has smaller, more specific markets within it that separate off into alleyways. Khari Baoli, the spice market within Chandni Chowk, is a fragrant and vibrant row of spices, herbs, teas, dried fruits, nuts, and specialty foods. It lends itself to some of the most picturesque images of abundant piles of herbs and spices. We rode in a cycle rickshaw around the marketplace to truly experience Chandni Chowk’s colorful and chaotic glory.

On our last full day in Delhi we visited Humayun’s Tomb, a major landmark of the city and one that Obama visited during his stay in New Delhi in 2010. I had difficulty seeing its grandeur, however. Compared to the well-preserved monuments of Agra, the monuments in Delhi appear in much worse condition. Though beautiful from a distance, Humayun’s Tomb was dirty and dilapidated, especially in the interior. There appeared to be some restoration project going on where laborers on scaffolding were casually repainting the building, which seemed sacrilegious and controversial to me. While in Delhi we also toured the Red Fort, which was in a similar state of decay. Some buildings in the complex appeared neglected and in the process of deteriorating, and there didn’t appear to be any plan to remedy this. The condition of these monuments was a sharp contrast to the protected and pristine conditions in which we view historical monuments and artifacts in America. Seeing Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort was an uncomfortable area for me to navigate knowing the amazing history behind these sorry structures.

Romi, Rhia, Kate, and me at Humayun’s Tomb

Romi, Rhia, Kate, and me at Humayun’s Tomb

In addition to the above places, we also visited a Tibetan area and a Muslim area situated within Delhi. It was interesting to see the mix of cultures in one city, and how these two places could differ so greatly. The Tibetan area was an oasis in the midst of the bustling city, with quiet shops and calm people. The Muslim area, also called Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin, was a series of narrow alleys winding among tall buildings. We toured this neighborhood with the Hope Project, a nonprofit that provides resources for families and individuals who live in this extreme poverty area.

Some things make more sense after visiting Delhi; I gained a lot of perspective, mostly about India but also about the world and the people in it. I gained a lot of questions, too. We’ll actually be returning to Delhi the first weekend in October with CIEE. There are a few places in Delhi I’d still like to see (like Qutb Minar) so I look forward to returning to this vibrant and intriguing city.