I MADE IT!

As my semester comes to an end I realized I have neglected my blog.  Not just neglected, I completely abandoned it.  I realized how bad it was when I couldn’t even remember the web address to my own blog and I had to have wordpress send me my password.  That was when I knew I abandoned it.  Then I thought this probably isn’t a big deal because people probably don’t have time to read my blog anyways, right? wrong.  Even though I have not posted anything for over 40 days ( I guess I am I past the point where I can use the excuse I gave up blogging for lent) I still had views!  So, I decided one last blog was needed for those of you who still check this thing!  Just so you know I wrote most of this when I was half asleep and I also don’t plan on fixing spelling errors so don’t say you weren’t warned!

Here is an update on my life since I last blogged.. or at least the main points! Ready? GO!

I think one of my proudest accomplishments is learning how to spell Mediterranean on the first try. It is harder than you think.

We went to Turkey! It was probably one of the highs of my trip.  Not only is Turkey in both Europe and Asia, it is BEAUTIFUL! If you haven’t talked to me or heard from me since my last blog, my papers have consumed my life.  Luckily two of my papers were on Islamic art and architecture, which I saw a lot of in Turkey.  This made my papers more interesting to write.  Note that I did not say easier or more fun.  I do not think I will even be able to use those words when describing my papers.  Although, I was able to learn a lot more than I thought I would when I was writing them.  Anyways, enough about my papers!  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Turkey!

Ephesus!

Blue Mosque

Inside Aya Sofia. I wrote about this place in both of my papers! It was originally a Christian cathedral and later turned into a mosque.

Tapkapi Palace in Istanbul.

After Turkey we had a weekend in Gozo, one of the smaller islands of Malta. Here are some pictures from Gozo!

The oldest of the temples in Malta.

Azure window

Globigerina limestone.. I have learned too much about this.. same with upper and lower coralline limestone.. these three pretty much make up most of Malta including the buildings.

COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO aka Comino tower

Some of us went to the James Blunt concert!  Oddly enough, it was the same night Jason Derulo was at Luther!

The concert goers

SICILY!  As a group we took the ferry to Sicily for the weekend.  We went to Syracuse, Taormina, and “climbed” Mt. Etna.  I say “climbed” because we did go pretty far up, but we were driving the entire way up.  So besides the times we got out of the car and wondered around for a bit, we didn’t do much climbing. Here are some pictures from Sicily!

The girls in the archeology park

Kristi and I with Mt. Etna in the background!

my attempt at an artsy picture

Some of us also went to a wine tasting at Marsovin.  The tasting was set up by our local bartender Simon!  Too bad he wasn’t able to make it!

Field Trips! Im pretty sure we have had three since the last time I blogged.  One was back to Gozo with Father Farrugia, our Christianity professor.  He brought us to St. George’s Basilica where he was the high priest for 10 years!

St. George's Basilica

inside St. George's

Father Farrugia! This is his picture from when he was the high priest!

We even got to go on the roof!

The second field trip was to see a Good Friday procession.

The girls at the procession

The last field trip of our Malta envirnoment field trip.  For those of you who don’t know, Malta is pretty much a rock in the middle of the Mediterranean.  There is not much of an environment here.  We went to the only “forest” in Malta.  Although I was happy to be around trees and plants for once, it is nothing in comparison to Minnesota.

the "forest"

old cart tracks.

Dingli cliffs

Okay, I may have lied.. we went on one more field trip.  St. John’s Co-Cathedral.  It is the church built by the Knights of St. John.  This is another thing about Malta I probably know more about than I would like.  I came to the sad realization that I know more about Malta’s history than the United States.  So, if you have any questions about Malta, I am the seven students here would have NO problem answering it.  Here is a picture from St. John’s.

inside the Co-Cathedral

SPRING BREAK! Abby and I went to France! We don’t speak French! It was a little difficult at times, but for the most part we manage to make our way around.   We did stay at a really sketchy place the first night though.  We found this place on airbnb.com.  Anyways, it was cheaper than a hostel and close to the train station.  Great.  Not.  We stayed with a man named Sess, his girlfriend Camille, and there one year old daughter, Tess.  First, I think they might have been younger than us.  Second, after we went to bed at 10:30, they went out with their one-year-old until 12:30.  They brought their baby along with them to go out drinking with friends!  After they got back Tess cried a good majority of the night.  Did I mention they had cats? Well they did.  Abby and I both woke feeling misreable.  We got ready, wrote a note, took a banana, and got the heck out of there! It may not sound that bad, but if you look at the pictures from the place and the surronding ares you would understand.  Is it the smartest choice we have ever made? No, but it was an experience! From there we took a train to Aix Les Bains and stayed with Abby’s aunt for a few nights.  It was wondering, beautiful, and relaxing.  Her aunt was very welcoming and showed us around.  We ate lots of delicious food that was traditional for the area.  Did I mention Aix Les Bains is in the mountainous area of France next to a really pretty lake?  If I wasn’t missing trees and lakes already, I was at that point.  I mean Malta is great being by the sea and everything, but nothing beats the land of 10,000 lakes!  Anyways, Aix Les Bains might be a little better than Minnesota.. I mean they do have the mountains.  After saying goodbye to Abby’s aunt and uncle we caught our train back to Paris for our jam packed day of tourism.  We saw the Louvre… this is partially a lie. We saw the outside.  We never actually went inside.  The line was RIDICULOUS, and we both would have rather gone to the Orsay Museum.  This ended up being a smart desicion on our part as we loved Orsay.  Anyways, we also walked the Champ Elysees, saw the Arc de triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and went to the Orsay Museum.  I can’t post anymore pictures because my internet is being slow.. if you are my facebook friend you can see them..

ESPANA! Kristi, Whitney, Abby, and I went to Valencia the weekend before our papers were due!  Maybe not the best timing, but how can you pass up a 22 euro round trip flight?!  Anyways, Kristi found us a really nice time share to stay in, but they didn’t really speak English.  Being the only one who really knew Spanish (Whitney knew some, which was very helpful when I got nervous.. if you know me well enough you know I get chocked up when having to speak in Spanish.. or any language barrier for that reason) I had to rely on what I remembered to get around.  The funniest part was when we got locked into our room.  No, not locked out, locked in.  So, I had to figure out how to explain that to the security guard in my broken Spanish.  He eventually came and let us out, and then our landlord moved us the the penthouse!  Highlights of Valencia: Tapas, the aquarium (its the largest in all of Europe), and the beach!  Overall relaxing girls weekend!

We finished up at Hal Far a couple weeks ago.  One of my students  told me he would never forget me and that what we did there was really important.  This actually meant a lot, as going to Hal Far every week stressed me out.  First, I don’t do well with language barriers and second I never knew if what I was teaching was actually helpful.  Although having to teach English made me very uncomfortable at times, this conversation made the whole time we were there worth it.

Okay, I think I am done.   I have more I could share, but not enough time!  I never thought leaving would be so bittersweet.  Even though I have loved writing about my last few months in Malta, I think I should go out and enjoy my last night here!  See everyone soon!

I MADE IT!

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Carnival!

This weekend was Carnival in Malta! It is held during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, and typically includes fancy costumes, huge late-night parties, and parades with colorful floats. The largest of the carnival celebrations mainly take place in and around the capital city Valletta, however there are several “spontaneous” carnivals in more remote villages of Malta and Gozo. The Nadur Carnival, in Gozo, is notable for its darker and more risqué themes including cross-dressing, ghost costumes, and political figures.

Part of our group went to the Nadur Carnival on Saturday night.   There were people dress up in ridiculous costumes, and loud music playing everywhere.

it started to get really busy!

We left around midnight, which was right as things started to get really packed.  For awhile I thought we weren’t going to make it out of the crowd to get to our bus.  Getting back from the island was an adventure in itself.  It took us 3 hours.. bus to ferry.. ferry to bus stop.. bus stop to realizing a bus probably wasn’t going to come.. taxi to flat.. but we made it back and that is all the matters!

Sunday we went to Valletta to see all of the floats.  They were huge, had a lot of detail, and were really colorful!

Tonight there are fireworks in Valletta, which we plan on going to!

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Hal Far take three.

Wednesday morning we had our third English lessons at Hal Far.  This time went much better for me than the last two.  The initial nerves I start with at the beginning of every session were there, but they soon left.  I started off with a few regulars as well some new people.  Each of us students had the regular amount, about a 3-5 people, and then I looked up from what we were working on and noticed we had gotten really busy.  By the end we all had about 6-8 students.  However, we were able to handle it no problem because we had already had a couple of sessions to figure things out.

I am finding the language barriers more comical than nerve racking.  When I was explaining opposites things got a little confusing.  The words narrow and wide were a challenge not only for them to understand but for me to explain.   I normally would have found this situation uneasy, but I ended finding it funny as we tried to find things to describe these opposites.   Some of them were far off as one of my students tried to explain loose as “something you buy new from a store.”  My attempts at explain it were not much better, but we ended up figuring it out by using the dimensions of the room we were in.  I later realized a road would have been a good example.. kind of late now!

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Roam if you want to, roam around Rome? YES!

Rome was by far my favorite part of the trip so far! I loved it!

Anyways, I guess the first thing I can talk about is not what we saw but what we ate.  We were in Italy, so the food was wonderful! The breakfasts we had at the hotel was the first delicious part of our day.  Croissants, rolls, cakes, cheese, lots of juices, and a ton of other things.  Overall, it was a lot of sweets, so I am not sure I could do it every day.  For most of our other meals we had pizza or pasta.  Go figure.  No matter where we went the food was good, and I don’t think I had a meal I didn’t enjoy.  Dani, another Luther student studying in Rome this semester, took us out to a couple of the hidden treasures.  The first I guess isn’t that hidden as it is right between the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.  It was the best gelato place I had ever been to.  You could get three huge scoops on a cone for only two euro.   The second place was a bakery close to Dani’s apartment.   Alison and I waited at the top of the stairs, and as Dani started to make her way back after ordering we saw what looked like a huge sugar donut.  This delicious pastry was a ciambella.  It was like having a Krispy Kreme for the first time but ten times better.

Okay, so enough with the food..  I felt like we were moving non stop seeing as much as we could.  I could sit here and tell you all the details of everyplace we went, but the purpose of this blog is not to be a wikipedia page but to tell you about my experience.  So, I am going to tell you where we went and the funny stories individual to our trip.

Day one: We arrived at the airport to the friendly face of Mark Lund, our tour guide for the trip.  We took the train to the metro and then the metro stop to our hotel.  I wasn’t too nervous being on the metro because I knew to keep an eye on my things, as Rome is known for pick pocketing.  However, on the metro Mark might have freaked me out a little bit.  As we make a stop at Termini the metro becomes filled with people.  At this point in time Mark tells me to keep my bag in front of me or someone will probably go through it. Great.  I then had to throw a couple elbows to get out of the packed metro.  Needless to say it wasn’t the greatest first metro experience.

After arriving at our hotel and having just enough time to put our bags down we made our way to the first stop, The Spanish Steps!

A cute couple getting married on the steps!

Second stop, The Trevi Fountain!

Third stop, Pantheon!

Stop four, Piazza Navona!

There are a lot of artist that set up around this area.  I found myself a really nice painting I am going to hang up when I get home!

Day two:

We started the day off right with the Colosseum!

What a good looking group of Luther student!

Next stop, Palatino Hill!

Up next the Forum

Finally appia antica.. this picture was probably my favorite part. We don’t look like tourist or anything.

Oh and we saw a cat drinking rain water out of statue in a museum.. really odd.

Dani also taught Alison and I earlier how to use the drinking fountains in Rome.  We then decided to teach the rest of the group.

The last final day! Day three:

St. Peter’s Basilica.. I was not expecting it to be so large and have so much detail inside

The Vatican!  There is so much to see! Way to much for the couple hours we had to wonder around.  One of the last stops in this maze of a museum is the Sistine Chapel.  You are suppose to be quiet, and you aren’t allowed to take pictures.  Not the case.  There are people all over trying to sneak pictures, so the quiet is interrupted by security guards yelling “no photo!”  Anyways, here are some other pictures from the Vatican.

Random highlight from the trip.. Mark Lund was attempting to navigate the city.  At one point in time he was standing almost in middle of an intersection and said, “I have no idea where we are going.”  Immediately after a car drove by and came close to hitting him.  His reaction and the situation in general had some of us laughing for awhile.

Oh and the reason for the title is because I sang the song “Roam” the entire time we were there.  Yes, I know they are spelled differently, but it seemed to be the perfect time for the song.

Thats all I have from Rome.  Sorry it took me over a week to get this up!

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Hal Far and Mdina

Today and last Wednesday we went to Hal Far to teach English.  It is definitely something I am going to have to get use to.

The first time we went we all had our lesson plans ready, but none of us really knew how it was going to work, how many people would come, or what level they would be at.  We waited as the refugees came in looking for help with English.  For the first hour I felt a little lost and had no idea what was going on.  Eventually, a man came in who spoke Arabic and very little English.  This was just my luck because I came prepared with a Somali- English dictionary.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  However, we figured it out and used other resource to get something going.  We started off with introductions, where I learned he was from Chad.  I knew it was in Africa, but where in Africa I had no idea.  So, I learned where Chad is and he learned where Minnesota is.   I asked him what he wanted to work on, and all he wanted to learn was phrases to help him communicate with people.   We went over things you would say in the grocery store, restaurants, and in an interview.  I was very overwhelmed at first because I have never done anything like this before.  It was a little difficult because everything we had was in Somali.  At the end of the session, I told him I would come better prepared next time as long as he promised to come.  On the bus ride back to our flat I had to take time to process everything.  I felt as though I was not able to help that much because of the language barrier.  Hopefully, that is not a problem for the rest of the time we are here.

This past Wednesday was our second time in Hal Far, and just as I promised I was prepared and just as he promised he came back right at 9:30.  I hate to admit have yet to be able to pronounce his name, but I will work on it next time.  This time I came prepared with a English- Arabic picture dictionary.  It included different scenes, such as downtown, the grocery store, and everything in between, which seemed to be really helpful.  By the end of the session we were talking about football (I caught myself calling it soccer several times, and I was quickly correct that they called it football).  He was telling about his favorite teams and the teams I should go see while I am here.  When it came time to leave I told him I was excited to work with him again next week and that he was a good student.  His responded, “you are a better teacher.”  I am not going to lie it was a BIG confidence booster.

Last Friday we had a field trip to Mdina, the old capital of Malta.  We first had a lecture with one of our professors, and we had to walk to the new campus in the rain. I had my rain coat on, but it obviously didn’t do much for my pants.  Fifteen minutes into the walk my thighs and halfway up my knees were soaked.  It also didn’t help a car drove by and splashed both Joey and I.  At the point there was no hope of being dry.  I was completely soaked. After freezing in lecture, I took the short amount of time we had before getting in the van to find a hand dryer and dry my pants.  I lucky found one that worked, and after a few odd looks from Maltese students I was almost dry.  Best decision of the day.   When we got to Mdina the weather was still not the best, but it had stopped raining which was a plus.  The city is very old and rich with culture.  However, the city is mostly aimed to tourist and very few people actually live there anymore.  You are greeted at the gates to the city by people trying to sell a carriage ride to you, and once you are inside every ten feet is a new person trying to hand you a brochure to this or that.  It was kind of like Disney World but Maltese and no rides.  We started walking around the city, and the trip became significantly worse as the wind picked up and it became cold.  There was a point where we were crossing a courtyard and I thought I was going to get blown away.  Another time we were walking by a ledge, and it felt like my face was being pelted by small hail.  It was not very enjoyable.  We agreed as a group it was definitely someplace we would have to go back to when it is warmer, so we can actually enjoy our trip.

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Hal Far, The Feast of St. Paul, and everything in between

So, I am still not the greatest at updating my blog, so this is me making up for not blogging the past week.

Last Wednesday we visited Hal Far where we will be teaching English to refugees for our service learning class.  The camp is also referred to as tent village because that is exactly what it was, a large amount of tents meant for several people to live in.  The tents have gone through a lot of wear and are slowly being replaced by steel shipping containers.  There are about 20 people in each tent and 8 people in each container, and neither are the best living conditions.  The moment we arrived I felt overwhelmed, and I had the realization language barriers terrify me.  Teaching English is definitely going to be an experience.

Thursday was the Feast of St. Paul in Valletta.  St. Paul was responsible from bringing Christianity to the Malta  in 60 AD when he was shipwrecked on the island.  The celebration is HUGE!  The whole city is decorated is with banners, flags, and statues.  It was really a sight to see.

The procession is an important tradition of this holiday.  The statue of St. Paul is carried out of the church and paraded around the city.  The streets were crowded because everyone wanted to see the statue.  Part of our group decided to stand right in front of the church where everyone else wanted to stand.  We were squished.  I don’t think I have ever been that close to a bunch of strangers in my life.

Another tradition is to throw paper into the streets.  I am still not sure why but there was paper everywhere!

Friday we had two classes like normal, but this time each class was on a different campus.  After a little bit of a struggle finding the bus stop to get to Valletta, where the old campus is, from the new campus we had no problems.  In Valletta we had our final class Globalization where all we discussed were the issues going on in North Africa.  The situation is a sore subject for our group because it is the reason we will most likely not be going to Egypt.  However, the class ended on a high note as Ranier Fsadni, our professor and Luther alum, talked about his favorite memories from when he was at Luther.

Friday night Whitney made us dinner because it was her four year anniversary with her boyfriend.  I am still not sure why she cooked for us instead of the other way around, but I was not complaining.  She made us steak and baked potatoes.  Well, what she though was steak.  It ended up being Maltese sausage wrapped in steak.  It was still delicious! Then the group went down to Simon’s for a while just to hang out and relax after a long week.

Nothing too exciting happened during the day Saturday.  I worked on me lesson plan for Hal Far and my assignment for Rome. Fun, right?  That night part of the group had a second try at Paceville.  This time we were definitely more prepared, as most of us were wearing less “American” clothing.   It was nice to feel as though we blended in a bit more; however, no matter what we do we always seem to stick out as Americans.  Some of the group had also scoped out the area during the day, so we figure out better places to go.  It was definitely a better experience than the first time.

Monday and Tuesday were busy with classes.  We had two classes each day.  I know that doesn’t sound bad, but when they are two hours long and you can’t always follow what they are saying it gets a little rough.

The boys made us dinner on Valentines day!  It was bruschetta and seafood pasta.  I was very impressed on how good the meal was! We also revealed out secret sweethearts (secret santa but for valentines day) that we had been doing the entire week.  With only 7 people and all of us living in the same space we already knew who everyone had, but it was still fun to act like it was a surprise.

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First days of school and a semester by the sea

Monday we had our first day of school!  It was Maltese Language, and we learned a lot about the different influences on the language and history on how it was developed.

What a lovely bunch of kids on their first day of school!

After class Abby, Alison, and I went and laid up on the roof.  I am not sure how long we were up there for, but I got through almost all of my Glee soundtrack and figured it was time to go in.  From there I decided to go for a run, and walk around the shore for awhile.  As I looked into the water there were jelly fish everywhere!  It was definitely the highlight of my walk.  It hit me that our group literally has a semester by the sea.  I am going to take full advantage of this (not as if it is going to be hard).

Two hours of class, laying in the sun, going on a run, walking by the beach, and seeing jelly fish… hard life right?

Tuesday’s class on the other had was not as easy as the first day.  After waking up and getting to the bus by 8 we were ready for our second lecture, Globalization and Tradition. It was suppose to be one lecture in two sections, each lasting two hours.  This was not the case.  We ended up sitting in lecture for about 5 hours straight.  If you know me at all, you know I can’t sit attentively for an extended period of time.   It helped that the topic was interesting, and I manage to stay attentive for the most part, but 5 hours is a longer than I am in class at Luther on a given day.

When we got back from class Kristi, Abby, and I decided to go on a power walk.  On the way back I decided to take advantage of the fact the sea is practically our backyard and walk by the water.  I walk around the same area, but still find it exciting and refreshing every time.  Hopefully that lasts.

Pretty much the best backyard

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