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bloggers abroad

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All views expressed here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent Santa Clara University. Click on the above photos for their photos and bios.

 
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Blogs from Abroad

Blogs from Santa Clara University students studying abroad.

  •  First blog from Tanzania

    Friday, Sep. 24, 2010 8:09 AM

    Hello from Rhotia (village), Karatu (District), Arusha (Region), Tanzania (Country)!

    I am heading into week four of my experience abroad. The last three weeks have been full of adventures and memories. Our campsite is located in the middle of a village (Rhotia); we are fenced in and well protected from wild animals and other intruders. Within our first week, we were able to venture out into Rhotia, meet the people, and attempt to speak the Swahili we had learned. Everyone was so incredibly welcoming. “Karibu (welcome),” they would say as we passed by them with huge smiles across their face. Here, in Tanzania, it is a rarity not to be greeted by everyone you see. Even the children are very upbeat and very excited to see us. They grab our hands, tell us hello, and walk with us around our camp.

    There is a secondary school located nearby; a week ago we were able to attend their graduation ceremony and it was such a great celebration. Of course, the ceremony was typical in some ways; boring speeches and proud parents, but the students sang and danced as did some of the older community during it all. The people were very happy to have us there supporting the students and congratulating them for their hard work; however, every time we leave camp we are very, very noticed. You can just feel all the eyes staring you down. Although, I feel that the recognition of us in their village is a positive attribute to their culture; not because we are the “tourists” with money to spend on their beautiful paintings, jewelry, or cloth, but because they know we are here to study their culture and be apart of and contribute to the peacefulness and happiness in Tanzania.

    Tomorrow we are heading to the primary school to play some soccer (net ball) and read with the children. The teachers are very excited for us to come and of course, we are very excited too. Living in Tanzania has already been a beautiful experience. Tanzania makes you believe in the beauty of simplicity and soak up all of the life that is around you; not just the incredible vegetation, sunsets, and wildlife, but especially the people. Tanzanians are people who go to bed with a smile on their face and wake up with that same smile on their face; being in their presence is simply a blessing.

    -Katie

  •  Being Respectful in El Salvador

    Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2010 4:03 PM

    Once you get a Salvadoran talking about something they're passionate about, it's hard to get them to stop. As Dean Brackley, a renowned Jesuit in El Salvador, told us one evening, in a life that is so volatile, all the Salvadorans have are their stories and the mere act of listening is often the greatest sign of respect. The women of La Valencia cannot stop the rain, but talking about it gives them a sense of control. The comfort that seems to come from the Salvadorans' power over words and their ability to share that has been apparent in every town we have visited. The best example of this would have to be our visit to San Ramon, where we spent time with a group of women who practice liberation theology. In a culture that struggles with machismo and religious systems that give preference to men, these women have redefined faith. They strive to follow through on the Gospel's mission to promote justice and equality, trying to eliminate the hierarchical system they often see in the church. Therefore, they don't have any central priest figure and their services consist of an equal sharing of lives, stories, and food.

    And speaking of food, although Salvadorans are more than hospitable, this is often shown through the generous portions they often give. Boy, we're eating a lot of tortillas. And, as it is not socially acceptable in El Salvador to decline mountains of food, we have become quite dedicated to our running group, No Gringo Left Behind. Yeah, we're quite a sight-eight to ten Americans running through the streets of Antigua Cuscatlan at the beginning of the workday. However, despite the ridiculousness we sometimes seem to cause, Salvadorans so far have been nothing short of welcoming. Every drive through town we find ourselves constantly waving to kids on the streets and most greetings are filled with hugs, kisses, and gracias a Dios. And in most cases, it is the people with the most tragic stories that see the most hope and inspire the greatest happiness.

    On our first day of traveling, we visited Giovanni and his family in the hills of Tepecoyo. Their home is typical of those in that region—dirt floors covered by tin roofs with clothes lines overwhelming the walking space. And of course no Salvadoran home would be complete without a handful of aimless dogs, chickens, and toddlers. We sat around Giovanni's wheelchair, watched him smile and listened to his mother's account of his story. A couple of years ago, Giovanni decided to leave school in order to work and pull his family out of economic trouble. However, just last year, Giovanni fell, putting him in the hospital for a great deal of months and leaving him wheelchair bound. Now, not only is Giovanni not able to support his family, he has become their greatest economic burden, making it impossible for them to feed themselves and pay for his treatment. Giovanni's wheelchair is too big for him, leaving his limbs contorted, and as they cannot drive to the city for physical therapy, Giovanni sees a future of dependence on his mother. However, despite their circumstances, as his father put it, Giovanni's smile makes it all worth it. Giovanni loves to talk. He told us of his passion for music, his dream of being able to dance again. He loves working with the kids of Tepecoyo and hopes to some day find a way to resume a somewhat normal life. But despite his troubles, we saw how much love he had for his family, a love that was extended to us, not because we offered financial support to the family or taught Giovanni to walk, but just because we took the time to listen. To Salvadorans, a willingness to listen is often the best thing you can give them and the best way to win their respect.

     

    “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time...But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” Lilla Watson

  •  Maori Spirit

    Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2010 11:15 PM

     

    After much correspondence with my parents, and phone calls, I arranged to meet some old family friends of my grandparents. Before I get into much detail to roughly explain a Marae is a type of Maori meeting area. From what my grandparents had told me my family friend was a good-hearted Maori, overflowing kindness and generosity. In Hawaii we refer to those values as Aloha Spirit. As I walked to my university’s Marae, it dawned on me that I was going to be representing my entire family, not just my mom and dad, but my grandparents as well. I had never seen these family friends and my grandparents hadn’t seen them in at least twenty years. I had to make a good impression. Upon meeting my family friend and his son, we embraced in the traditional hongi, or the touching of noses and exchange of breath. To my surprise it felt incredibly natural and went without any awkwardness. We spoke much about my grandparents and the old days, laughing here and there. Our talk drifted toward the parallels of both my Hawaiian culture and their Maori culture. They explained to me many of the contemporary problems the Maori people faced in this new age, and how their culture had revitalized itself. My grandfather, while traveling in the South Island had seen how the Maori culture was on the rise, he looked for ways to bring that spirit back into the Hawaiian culture, which lead him to befriending the man standing before me. As the family friend returned to work, the son and I stayed a while longer talking about Hawaiian and Maori identity and how to preserve and perpetuate it by uniting Polynesia in a cultural pride. It was here that it dawned on me, that I had only been in Hawaii for six weeks out of the whole year and how much I had started to lose touch with my roots or whakapapa, as the say in Maori. Learning about how much my family friend had done to help the local Maori population inspired me to reconnect with my Hawaiian side and to try to help perpetuate the Hawaiian identity.

     

  •  Experiencing Diversity in Spain

    Monday, Sep. 20, 2010 12:00 AM

    While getting to explore (and get lost in) Barcelona for the first time, I noticed that there was a lot more diversity in the people than I had originally thought. I was surprised to learn that there are a lot of Chinese, Pakistanis, and Africans who've immigrated in the past decade. Additionally, because homosexuality is generally accepted in the city, it's not uncommon to see openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people being as affectionate with their partners on the street as straight people are (there's a lot of PDA here).

    I think that this increase in diversity in Spain has contributed to the common usage of the question: De donde eres? As an African-American who's family is far-removed from our African roots, I'm mostly identified by locals as American, "la chica negra" (the black girl), or "la chica morena" (the brown girl). I've also randomly been mistaken for being French. My roommate, who's Vietnamese, has been called "chinita" (Chinese girl) countless times and has also been mistaken for being Filipino or Japanese.

    The fact that the people here are so curious to find out where you're from is not that different from what I've experienced in the States. However, the approach is different. In the States people tiptoe around the question of race or ethnicity. People ask "Where are you from?" and when my reply, "California", doesn't satisfy, they ask "Where are your parents from?". Of course my next answer, "Ohio", doesn't help them any, either. So, as a last resort, they'll just say "Are you mixed with something?" In Spain, people get straight to the point and simply ask: "De donde eres?" or make a guess of their own instead of fishing for answers.

    In one of my orientation sessions, the professor explained that describing people by their physical appearance is a social norm in Spain. So, terms like "la chica negra" and "chinita" aren't viewed as impolite or rude. When asked what Americans are viewed as by the locals, he jokingly said, "You walk around wearing flip flops with your short skirts or shorts and your Starbucks...You need Starbucks to survive. You wear the big North Face backpacks and fill them like you're going hiking in the mountains, but we all know you're not because you're wearing those flip flops!" On a more serious note, he warned that American women are often seen as being "easy" or "slutty" because young Americans often drink excessively when visiting because it's legal. And this paired with the short skirts can give off the wrong impression.

    Nonethess, my experience with the Spaniards I've come in contact with has been extremely pleasant. Due to my tendency to get lost, one of my most used phrases has become "Donde esta (insert street name here)?" Everyone I've asked, whether they reply in English or Spanish has tried to help. And when someone does ask me, "De donde eres?" they are genuinely interested in knowing something about where I come from.

  •  Guests are God

    Thursday, Sep. 16, 2010 8:13 PM

    Many people have expressed the urgency to always be cautious of your surroundings and smart about your money when traveling to a country such as India.  They give advice such as, keep your money hidden and close to your body, suggesting the use of money pouches/ fanny packs.  They believe that there is always someone who would want to pickpocket or cheat people out of my money one-way or the other while in a foreign land.  They expect the worst out of people.
           I got similar advice from parents and neighbors before I left for India, but I have seen the opposite.  I have been here for two months, and have yet to get anything stolen from me.  Merchants on the streets and drivers aren’t trying to take all my money, just what they deserve.  Granted, some of the prices can be a bit steep (in India standards) at times, but they never gave me any reason to feel threatened or worried that I am getting taken advantage of.
           Many people who own or work for a business here in India have a notion that “Guests are God.” I feel like I am always welcomed where ever I go, and am treated very hospitable.  There have been times that the shop owner/ driver has reduced their price to my asking, and there has been a few times when I gave too much money and they returned it with out hesitation.  One shop owner chased me down the street when he realized I dropped my wallet (full of money).
           Maybe I have just been extremely lucky, but I don’t think its luck.  I feel that the fears others had expressed to me were stereotypes.  Not every person in India is  pick-pockets.  Not every person is looking to find ways to make more money.  Not every person is looking to cheat you.  There may be a few bad apples, who do pickpocket, steal, and cheat; but we have that in America too.  Why is it foreign
    countries we are more worried about?


    Brigitte M. Clark

  •  Stereotyping Americans

    Tuesday, Sep. 14, 2010 8:08 PM

    Stereotyping is something everybody does.  Just because a person is a certain height, gender, race, ethnicity, or anything else that can define a person, these defining qualities allows other people to assume they know something about a person without taking the time to get to know them.  Today, I came across the stereotype for the typical American college student.
           I was waiting in Nizamuddin Park for the kids participating in the NGO I’m volunteering at, and a boy around my age, asks if it would be okay to sit down and talk with me.  Eager to make new friends, I agreed and we began with the basic getting-to-know-you conversation.  As always (or so I believe) in a conversation between a girl and a boy in India, he asked me if I had a boyfriend.  He then proceeded to ask if I have sex with my boyfriend.  Shocked by his upfront and personal question, I just replied that was inappropriate to ask someone you just met.  He apologized and told me that he thought all young adults in the US, in their college years had sex all the time.
           I was ashamed that he had this view on the American society, but sadly I could see his point.  How many movies had I watched that have sex scenes in them?  How many songs that we listen to on a daily bases that have references to sex?  Not only is sex everywhere in the media, but also it is in real life.  How many times have I seen “walk of shames” in the mornings on my way to early classes?  How did we let it get this far that we are stereotyped into people who have sex for a hobby?

  •  Arriving in a Multicultural London

    Monday, Sep. 13, 2010 8:00 PM

    As I boarded the plane at San Francisco International Airport and headed to London I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had been planning to go to London for the better part of a year and dreaming of this moment my entire college and high school career. Now that it was happening it still did not seem real to me. It felt as if I was going through the motions of getting ready to study abroad without having it
    sink in that I would actually be studying in another country for 3 ½ months.
           Everything began to seem all too real as I got off the plane at Heathrow Airport and was expected to make my way down what could possibly be the longest hallway ever. As I struggled to find all of my suite cases and find my group of fellow Santa Clara students I was amazed by everything around me; the sights, the sounds, the accents. It was clear that I was no longer in the United States and that I would
    have to get  use to all of this soon.
           While making our way through the busy streets of London towards our flat I couldn’t help but marvel at the differences between the U.S. and England. The city clearly had modern touches everywhere but still had what could only be classified as traditionally English. With older building modified and nestled in between newer buildings, people would be able to enjoy both the new and the old no matter where they were.
    When I entered my flat I quickly unpacked my belonging and headed out the door to explore my neighborhood and the amazing sights. It was overwhelming being here for the first time. Seeing sights I’ve only read about before and now I was getting to see it firsthand.
           A few days later going on a coach tour around the city only increased my love for London. In the 2 ½ tour around the city we were still unable to see all the major locations of London. The tour guide was taking us around and pointing to so many different locations and buildings that he would be pointing at ten buildings in a matter of seconds and your head would be turning so fast that you wouldn’t even know what you were looking at nor would you have enough time to take everything in. You would see a tower and castle with a moat from the 11th century right next to a building built in the last 10 years and another shaped like a car's headlight. The eclecticness of this city just added to its character and made it more fascinating.
           Over the last few days I have been exploring the city and learning about all the other areas of the city. I hope to know this city well and see all that it has to offer and take part in the countless activities while I am here. I know that an opportunity like this rarely comes around and I will not let it slip by. With luck I will be able to
    do all that I want to do while here and adopt this city as my second home.

  •  The Rude and Inconsiderate Embarrassment

    Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010 5:50 PM

          I cannot believe how disrespectful one of the students in my abroad program was today.  We were in the middle of Hindi class, and this kid storms in an hour and a half late.  With out a word of apology or explanation, he slammed the door shut, banged his stuff around, and sat in his seat and sulked.  When class was over, our teacher (who is the sweetest woman ever) asked him if anything was wrong and why he was late.  He gave her an excuse that he got lost, placing the blame solely on his auto rickshaw driver and not himself.  He was trying to make it seem like he was the victim because it took him so long to get to class
    and he had to pay for the extra long ride.
          I don’t know if at his school, those actions are acceptable, or if he thinks he can get away with it because we are in a different country, but I was definitely raised better.  I know for a fact that a rickshaw driver does get lost sometimes, but we have been coming to the same place for 3 weeks, and by now we should know if we are in the wrong part of town.  It is our responsibility to be aware of our surroundings and make sure that the driver is going the right way.  In most cases the driver will just ask someone else on the street for directions.  I was so embarrassed for his actions and the way he treated our teacher that I went back and apologized for him.  He is representing all students who study abroad from the US, and I did not want her to think we are all just as rude and inconsiderate.


    Brigitte M. Clark

  •  The Ignorant Foreigner

    Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010 5:49 PM

          It is extremely important in India to be aware of the different lifestyles.  Today I made a mistake that made me the ignorant foreigner. I was riding in an auto rickshaw on the way to the market when I saw two kids who were “playing” outside.  They waved to me, and my automatic instinct was to smile and wave back.  To my naïve delight, the girls came up to my stopped rickshaw and started playing the drum and doing acrobatic dance.  I honestly just thought they were being friendly children eager for an adoring audience; a Stewart from Mad TV saying, “Look what I can do…” It was brought to my attention that they were dancing for me for money, and that I waved them over to perform.
          Thinking back on it, why would a little girl be throwing herself on the hot and dirty pavement of Delhi for free?  All the signs were there too: the girls were wearing dirty, torn clothes, and they had no shoes.  Of course they were trying to make money, performing as a means to survive.  I’m curious how many ignorant foreigners make similar mistakes, but do realize what has happened and do not give them money.
    How many times have these children not recieved money for their efforts?


    Brigitte M. Clark

  •  Adventures in Taupo

    Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010 5:59 PM

    This weekend four of my friends and I decided to rent a car and drive approximately 4 hours south to the town of Taupo, which, coincidently, is next to Lake Taupo. We could have gotten there faster had we known exactly how to get there, but regardless we made it with out being lost. We came all the way down here to go skydiving. It has always been something I wanted to do. Upon arriving we made dinner in the hostel kitchen then headed out to one of the near by bars to socialize. We turned out to be the only people in the bar. After playing a game of billiards, we were joined by an openly lesbian couple sitting across from us. If there is one thing that I respect about New Zealand thus far it is the lack of sexism and homophobia that exists in America. People here are far more open to LGBTs. I feel like I know more openly gay people here than I do in the states. I enjoy being exposed to this new culture that seems to so hidden from me while I am in the States.

                On a side note, we never did get to go skydiving because the weather was not on our side, regardless I enjoyed the experience and the sight seeing.

     

  •  So Far So Good

    Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010 5:53 PM

    I must say that I was expecting to be living with a bunch more Kiwis, but most who attend Auckland University are commuter students.  The ones I am living with are all international or study abroad students.  At first I was disappointed but then I realized the immense diversity I was surrounded with.  I have discovered that the best way to approach a diverse community or any community is to always have an open mind and to ask an appropriate amount of questions.  When first getting to know the other residences of No. 14 Whitaker Place I found many people from all over Europe, North America, and Asia.  While we were having a social gathering of sorts in a neighboring flat one fellow decided that his country was the best country at drinking.  Of course everyone cheered for their own country and a drinking contest ensued.  As the fellow continued to drunkenly rave about how awesome his country was a clear rift started to form isolating him from the rest of the party.  Even his own countrymen were embarrassed by his actions.  I took away from this experience really learning that to be overly enthusiastic for your home country, while a broad, can turn people away from you.

     

     

  •  Green Living in India

    Monday, Aug. 2, 2010 5:48 PM

    When people think of India, they normally think of how dirty it is.  One of the first things I noticed when I arrived are the wrappers from snacks and other food that had been carelessly tossed on the side of the road and in ditches.  Ironically, for the amount of trash in the streets of Delhi, I came to find that India is one of the greenest cities in the world. India has a higher recyclable rate than in the United States.
    The US tries to make a point of having recycle bins in households and public centers, but many times, recyclables get thrown away.  In India they do not recycle at a household level.  Instead they have people called “rats” who dig through the garbage and pick out everything that can be recycled.
           Also, India has less trash by a “no plastic bag” law, sending customers home with bags made out of newspaper or cotton similar to the “go-green” bags we buy in the States.  They are also eco-friendly with water conservation, by washing their clothes by hand, and taking “bucket showers” to wash themselves.  Also, tourist transportation (taxis, buses, and auto rickshaws) are run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) that is more environmentally clean than the alternative fuels like
    gasoline.

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