Saturday, December 11, 2010

Let me go home

I'm sitting in the Miami airport eating peanut M&Ms, reading Vanity Fair magazine, and experiencing strong feelings of disbelief. What has happened? It's more than obvious that I am not in Cusco anymore and in five short (but they seem very long) hours I will be reunited with my family.

My last days of study abroad have been a complete whirlwind of packing, presenting my research, and hitting all my favorite spots in my favorite Peruvian city. Yesterday my friends brought me to the airport and it became clear that these people are not just any normal friends. We have been there for each other in sickness and in health (literally, we were hospitalized together), and saying goodbye to these people was incredibly hard.

One of the strangest feelings I have had was leaving Cusco. It was my home for three and a half months. For us college students, it felt like going home after finals, but without knowing that I will ever be back. Hopefully one day.

I don't think I have any life changing wisdom about study abroad yet, but I cannot fully comprehend that it is over. I'm going to be honest, when I was in freezing Colca canyon in my sod house there were times when I wanted to go home so badly. When I was sick in the jungle some of the days seemed to crawl by. But it's over. The only thing that isn't over right now is my EIGHT hour layover. In the spirit of re-integration into the United States I think I am going to go to Starbucks now. Peace!

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's a wild world

I go home in one week. That simple truth is presiding over every decision I have made in the last few days. My life in Cusco is wrapping up and things are just a little bit crazy. For starters, I have that lovely 40 page paper looming over my head, making fun final trips around the area almost impossible. I have been buying presents for people back home which is a lot of fun and really stressful at the same time. And the beast of them all-packing. I decided that I am going to donate a lot of my clothing to make room for all of the aforementioned gifts in my suitcase.

Today I picked up my suitcase from my host mom's house because I left most of my things there while I was in the jungle. I went through my things and I couldn't believe how many unnecessary things I had. First of all, I only ever wore three pair of pants here, which doesn't excuse the SIX that I brought. Shorts? What was I thinking. Wearing shorts in Peru says "Hello, I am a tourist with absolutely no cultural understanding or knowledge of climate." Sure it's hot around noon, but it will rain at 3 o'clock and drop to forty degrees around 6.

Things I have accumulated while in Peru:
1. Knee high black rain-boots. While they are trendy at SMC, these boots were not for fashion but for practicality. There are some pretty deep puddles in the rainforest.
2. A knit mask/hat combination for traditional dancing that SIT made us do in Lima. Seriously, I will never wear it again, does anyone want it? Here it is:

3. Notebooks and binders, what are those? Sometimes I really do forget that this is a school affiliated thing and not just a three and a half month long adventure.

I guess what I am trying to get across is that I am in a complete state of shock that this time next week I will be heading home to New York. I am going to be honest, there are times when I would like nothing more than to be home where things are comfortable and easy. Where I can speak English freely, eat things I am used to, and not worry about standing out. But things aren't supposed to be easy all of the time, that would be so boring. A lot of the time I think about how much more accomplished I feel after doing something I never thought I could do. My friends and I were talking to another tourist in our hostel and he told us that we are living the dream. I guess that is true.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Living in twilight

This week I joined my three friends, Beth, Rachel and Priscilla in a lovely Cusquenian hostel. It was so great to see them after THREE whole weeks of solitude. I know we are all so happy to be together, but it is likely that everyone else in the hostel resents us for our loud laughter, music (for dancing), and conversations. After three months of homestays, meticulously planned excursions, and nonstop Spanish it is such a difference to be able to do whatever we want. I mean we still have to write a FORTY page paper in SPANISH, but besides that we have nothing to do.

So, with that being said, we spend our mornings leisurely making breakfasts in the hostel kitchen. One day we made banana pancakes and fruit salad. Beth and I even walked to the nearest tourist breakfast restaurant to buy a jar of maple syrup. It cost 8 soles, and it was worth every centimo. It was amazing.

After the whole day working and whining we end on a very positive and carefree note. One of the many great things about Peru is their pirated DVD collection. The Twilight series is going to get us through this, and we are not even embarrassed to admit it. I hope that everyone else is making time to have some fun during these stressful few weeks. ¡Sí podemos! (Yes, we can!)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Big yellow taxi

So I think it's time that I a do a post about a little something I call Peruvian transportation. There are many kinds-taxi, bus, or my personal favorite, the combi. I'm pretty sure that a combi is a van that failed inspection in the United States and has been relegated to a life of honking in Peruvian traffic. Comfortably they fit 12, but they have been known to push the limits to 20. Have you ever stood in a van going down a bumpy road? I have, and let me tell you something, it's not easy my friends. But they are GREAT. They cost ten cents and take you wherever you need to go. Everyone's life would be better if they had them in the United States, believe me.

On a slightly less optimistic note, I will mention Peruvian tour buses. They are quite the experience, and an example of "you get what you pay for." I bought a bus ticket for the price of 15 soles (5 dollars) to take me to Quillabamba, a city six hours away. I maybe should have bought a slightly more expensive ticket because my journey included 25 stops which doubled the length of the trip. Also in Peru it is acceptable to get on a bus while it is moving and sell things like stuffed peppers and tamales. Try sitting next to someone eating that, in ten minutes you will smell like a kitchen. And in the front of the bus is a man who hides a loud speaker and yells at the passengers to buy his herbal remedies that will cure fungus and constipation. Yes, it is that graphic.

The strangest part of this whole experience is that everyone thought what was happening was perfectly normal. Somehow I do not think that Greyhound would approve. So that was lesson number 43294 in cultural differences.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I feel part of the universe open up to meet me

Hello everyone, I know that I already talked about some of my jungle days, but I liked it so much I feel the need to elaborate. Above is the picture of the mission that I stayed in. Isn't it beautiful? I think so. My days went a little like this: I woke up at 5:30 everyday and then went to eat breakfast with the nuns. A banana with honey from the mission's hive, and quite delicious might I add. After this I would go on a walk through the town before the sun got too hot, but after 10 minutes I would be exhausted. So a post walk nap was needed. Then a lunch of soup and some meat product that was freshly killed from the morning (graphic, I know). After lunch I actually did work, much to my dismay, and I interviewed people in the community. Then came the volleyball games. After 13 weeks I still have not met a Peruvian who doesn't love volleyball. Too bad for me, I am awful at it and many a teenage girl was amused. The rest of the day was mass, dinner (mango and rice) and then bed. Very exciting I know.

Being with all the girls was really great, and I was so happy that they actually wanted to talk to me. It was nice being the shiny new United States-anthem-singing-English speaking toy. We talked about all kinds of things from siblings to learning to drive. In case you were wondering they all know how to drive motorcycles, not cars. They were 12. Pretty impressive. Well that's all for now, I hope everyone has finally digested their Thanksgiving meals!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The more I see the less I know

I'm not exactly sure what juncture in my life led me to the moment where I chose to spend two and a half weeks in a dominican mission in the Peruvian Amazon. Looking back, I sure am happy that I did it.

But let me start from the beginning. With my study abroad program, SIT, students must pick a theme and the location where they want to research. The fifteen members of my group ended up dispersed across the country studying traditional medicine, ecotourism, and gender roles. I chose to study perceptions of poverty in a jungle community. I wanted to see if everyone has the same idea of what poverty is, or if it is societally constructed.

I lived with four nuns, two priests, and 35 lovely teenage girls in the mission in the town of Koribeni. I'm going to let you all in on a secret--if you want to make sure you're well fed and clean, stick with the nuns. They have great beds, good food and cold drinks. That's all I really need for happiness.

Besides being a school and home for the girls, the mission is a community gathering place. If I lived in Koribeni I would hang out there too, the nuns are pretty incredible. I don't know about you, but I don't know many sisters who watch volleyball religiously (no pun intended), eat 3 mangoes after each meal, and ride on the backs of motorcycles into town.

I went with one of them, a missionary mother named Ester from the Philippines on a three day adventure deeper in the jungle. She went town to town healing people with massages and homemade syrups. This was a serious trip, we even had an escort.

I think that I've always know my study abroad experience was going to be different, but I can pinpoint the moment that I knew this for sure. We were sitting in a house made of scrap wood and metal when a seven year old boy was carried into the room. As a baby he was dropped and part of his spine was injured and as a result he can't walk and has never spoken a single word in his young life. His family has been keeping him inside and out of school, afraid that the other children would tease him.

I felt more like I was in a Nicholas Kristof article than the reality that this was a school affiliated activity. Needless to say, Ester was not pleased with the parents' decision. She insisted that the little boy be socialized or he would only get worse. It was incredible to see.

So I will conclude this unusually long post with my realization- I may not be able to galavant around South America Che Guavera style (thanks SIT), but I have accepted this because I get to witness pretty unbelievable things that not many others get to ever see. Be well everyone!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tell me what you want to hear

This may sound quite silly, but today I realized that eventually, yes, I will go home. Here's the thing about being abroad (at least for me): just like at school there are good and bad days. There will be times when you feel like the luckiest person in the world for being allowed to have this opportunity. For example, two weeks ago I went to Colca Canyon with my friends. Colca is the world's second deepest canyon, twice as big as the Grand Canyon. Here we are looking for condors:

But the flipside to that is that there are days where you will not want any of the food, be late everywhere you go, and realize that Americans are really some of the only people who run on tight schedules. Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up a package that my wonderful friend, Kelsey, sent me. It took almost two hours for me to show my form, wait in line, and watch them search its contents. And I was the only person there. Seriously.

So my great, worldly wisdom is that it's okay to have bad days because the pressure that everyday has to be perfect is just too much. My cure to this is a nice, leisurely walk in the plaza with my friends, and maybe a delicious ice cream nov.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Islands in the sun

I'm a little behind on posting, but a week ago I went to Puno and Lake Titicaca. What's great about my study abroad program is that we all live separately in Cusco but get to go on trips and excursions together all over the country. Transportation, meals, and lodging is all arranged for us so it makes traveling really stress free. We even get stipends for the meals that we don't eat together.

Another bonus of the trip was the hot shower and internet that we get in the hotels. It is so funny everybody immediately checks their emails and facebook upon getting the password from the hotel worker. It is amazing how much I take these things for granted at home. Never again.

But those were not the highlights. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and it also happens to be the pretty beautiful to look at. We were lucky to have such great weather(hard to come by in the almost rainy season) and the floating island of Uros and the island Taquile were unforgettable. The man-made Uros Islands are over 300 years old and constructed entirely of reeds. There are 48 islands and the people on them uses these reed boats as transportation. Take a look:

I think that I would like to use those as my primary form of transportation too.

We also went to Taquile, which is a much bigger island. Everybody there is required to wear their traditional clothing that indicates their marital status. For example, married men wear red hats and single ones wear white. This seems useful and must eliminate a lot of guessing.

That's all for now, take care!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountain

The past few weeks here have been a complete blur. So much has happened that I am struggling with choosing something to write about. I will start with my bout of salmonella and an intestinal parasite upon our return from the jungle. I hadn't been feeling well for a few days and I went to the hospital. Along with eight others in my group, I have been blessed with the disease that comes from eating raw egg/uncooked chicken. Five antibiotics later I think that I am healed (almost, cross your fingers). Here is my hospital roomie, Beth, and I post hospital. I think we look pretty good:

On a slightly more happy note, my friends and I all went to Moray last weekend. Moray is an Incan agricultural experiment. It was well worth the two hour hike it took to get into the site. Hiking here for me means panting all the way uphill and then being so thankful and full of energy on the downhill. I'm not in the Adirondacks anymore.

Tomorrow my lovely group and I leave for a 17 day excursion to Puno, the Colca Canyon, Lima and Arequipa. I am beyond excited, mostly for Colca Canyon where I will be living in a rural home-stay. Hoorah!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome to the jungle

Hello everybody, I know it's been a while. Almost two weeks!! Well, in this time I have came and gone to the Amazon jungle and celebrated my 20th birthday. We visited the indigenous towns of Huacaria and Los Queros. It was quite the experience, and I would love to go back to the jungle under one condition- no more yuca. You see, the Amazon is beautiful, green, and the air is warm, which is a welcome change from Cusco. However, the food is limited and I ended up eating yuca for 3 meals a day for 5 days. These kinds of setbacks have to be tolerated when there is a river as beautiful as this to swim in-
It was the best thing to do before starting my day after a hot night's sleep in my tent. We also didn't really have showering opportunities, so the cleanliness the river provided was more than necessary.
The last day in the first village we all went through ceremonial hair washing to restore balance in our system. It was great, but I had leaves in my hair for the next two days. Check it out-

Besides this I was able to do so many interesting things like going night fishing with the town president. It was so much fun casting the net in the river and then pulling the tiny fish out of it. We ate them for breakfast the next day. I also worked on a banana farm and used a machete. I even have a blister to prove it, I swear.
Some of the most exciting time of our jungle trip came in the form of transportation. We all had to stand or sit in the bed of this truck to go anywhere. The novelty of this wears off after an hour and whenever the rain comes. It's not surprising, but in the rainforest there is a lot of rain.

Look at this truck and imagine crossing a three foot high river in it. It was like the modern day version of the Oregon trail. Well I must be off, after all I still have homework to do!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No cars go

So my jungle trip has been delayed due to a city wide strike. It turns out that the people in Cusco aren't too happy with water privatization. School, stores, and roads are closed down indefinitely. I thought I would show you all what it looks like here in the Plaza.

It is just so strange because I have not ever seen anything like this in the United States. When the protesters would walk by stores would slam their doors and close the blinds.
Police are everywhere in the streets standing where the cars should be. It is very eery. Well my internet isn't so great but I thought I would keep you all updated!! Take care!

Monday, September 20, 2010

I'm feeling the pull

I have officially been in Cusco for two weeks (more than that actually) and in Peru for three. I can't say that the time has flown by, but the days are definitely passing by more quickly. I thought it was a good time to fill you all in on some of my new favorite Peruvian/Cusquenian things.

1. La Plaza de Armas: So close to my classes, this beautiful plaza is home to our group's favorite cafes, restaurants and discotecas (which have a HUGE following in Cusco). There are usually about a million tourists here, but it is so beautiful I hardly care. See what I mean:

2. La comida: I was so suprised by the abundance of potatoes in Cusco, there are more than 60 kinds! I think that Peru is probably Ireland's biggest potato competitor. My new favorite food is platano con leche. My host mom tells me its juice, but it sure tastes like a banana milkshake to me. ¡Que rico! (this means how delicious).

3. El molino: Also known as Cusco's black market, el molino is home to everything you could possibly imagine. After listening to my Spanish professor talk about it for two weeks, I finally went yesterday. I got a camping mattress for the jungle, a towel, and an entire season of Friends all for less than 50 soles, which is about 20 dollars. What a find!

4. Hiking: There are so many places to explore less than an hour away from the city. This weekend I went to Pisac, which was a 3 hour hike with beautiful ruins around every corner. It is about 13,000 feet high and when I would stop to catch my breath I felt like I was sucking air through a straw. Here I am about to climb the stairs up the mountain:

I'm heading to the Amazon basin on Wednesday, so the next time I write will be about the jungle! Until then!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's all uncharted

So it has finally happened, I have succumbed to illness. I was in bed most of Sunday and Monday. My study abroad advisor said that it is a cruel joke that the first thing that happens when you enter a new culture is getting sick because you are out of your comfort zone and feel awful. My host mom was really great though, giving me tons of tea and strange pink corn mush that is supposed to be the cure for everything. I also was able to use a rubber hot water bottle, the last of which was probably seen in 1970.

However, my strangest experience happened when I went to tell my professor that I didn't feel well. There just happened to be a shaman (natural healer) in her office who was going to give us a lecture that day. Before I knew it he had taken out cedar wood and rosemary essences and began rubbing them on my head. At first I was quite uncomfortable, but after a few minutes I did feel better (and I smelled like a tree).

From instinct, the healer could tell that I needed to eat more healthy fats, drink more water, and relax more. He wanted to put acupuncture needles in my ears but I told him that it wouldn't be necessary and that I probably just needed some advil. After two days of sleep and about a million cups of tea, I do feel better. Who knows, maybe it was the alternative medicine that did the trick! Until later!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Put your hands in the air

I have been in Cusco for more than a week. I'm experiencing the strangest combination of feeling like I've been here forever and no time at all. I should have written a post about my trip to MACHU PICCHU last week so here it is:

We went last Wednesday and the day started wonderfully and I couldn't get over the view (and the llamas). I learned that Machu Picchu is pronounced Mah-chu Pik-chu, and if you say it Mah-choo Pi-choo it means something completely different (and might I add quite inappropriate). However, the day took a turn for the worse when it started downpouring on us. Steep stone steps plus rain and mud do not make for an easy trek. My lovely raincoat couldn't even keep out the water and I was forced to don a white poncho that made me look like an Incan ghost. All I have to say is that sometimes comfort and style do not coincide.
Here is what the great ruins looked like when I saw them:

The ruins were so great that I hardly cared that I struggled to see them and almost died going down the stairs. I don't know how people over the age of 35 can do this stuff. Hasta tarde amigos!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Staying alive

Culture shock. How do you know if you have it? What does it feel like? Well, it feels like seeing an entire roasted pig (head and all) on the kitchen table for lunch. In Peru, it's called lechón, and it is a delicacy that my family bought from Lima. I ate it, but it was one of the biggest struggles of my new Peruvian life. I want you all to see it, so here it is:

I am officially living with my host family in Cusco. They are a very nice retired couple with five children who have moved away. I have never had a television, my own bathroom, or a king sized bed, so it is so strange to have that all for the first time in Peru.

Besides the suckling pig, food here is so different. We eat bread and jam for breakfast, and HUGE lunch, and a tiny dinner at around eight at night. As someone who is suffering from a caffeine addiction, the coffee could not be any better.

Other differences...traffic lights are hard to find and stop signs are more like suggestions. Every time I cross the street I pray I don't get hit by a rogue Cusqenian car. Only the bravest of the brave drive in Cusco. And did I mention how cold I am? It is seriously time to buy some alpaca sweaters. Okay well, that is it for now, I just wanted to show every Alliot complainer my lunch. ¡Ciao! (That's how people say goodbye, but doesn't it sound Italian?)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Estoy aqui

After more than 24 hours of flying and layovers, I'm here, I'm here!! I got off the plane in Cusco and met up with the 14 other people in my program. It was great meeting everyone, especially since we come from all different areas of the United States. It is hard to believe that I will be here until December.

Our first few nights we stayed in a small town an hour away from Cusco called Urubamba. This is what it looks like:

We stayed in a hostel here for four nights and tonight we head out to Cusco but here are some things we did in Urubamba:

1. Went to a guinea pig (or cui en español) farm.
There were so many but own one cui was black. In Peru, the black ones are good luck and they are rubbed on people who are sick for healing purposes. Look at this:
2. We saw how chocolate is made. It turns out the seeds are grown, toasted, and then ground with peanuts and some sugar to get the real deal. Hershey's better watch out because this natural chocolate is pretty delicious. I think i'm going to go back today to buy some more!

On another note, there are a few things about Peru that have surprised me. First of all, it is so cold! I thought (in my ignorance) that it was supposed to be cold under the equator, but I find myself doubling up on my sweaters during the day. Another thing (which may be too much information for some), toilet paper is hard to find, so it is suggested that we all carry our supply around. More to come, but I'm going to end on one of my new favorite pictures:
¡Qué hermosa! (that means what beauty).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This is how we do it

Today my family and I dropped off my sister, Lauren, at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. Lauren, like myself, is becoming a knight, but she is a golden one. I don't know if we really like royalty, but I think it's pretty funny that out of the hundreds of possible mascots (and there are some strange ones) we chose the same one.

Being on a college campus and watching all the freshmen moving in really made me miss school. Seriously, I teared up when I saw the anxious families lugging the bins of notebooks, bedding, and clothes. Don’t get me wrong, I'm so excited to study abroad and try new things, but I know that I will miss the beautiful comforts of my college home.

While at Clarkson, I couldn't help but notice the differences from my own school. Here are some of them:
1. Freshmen have to choose a meal plan. This should seem normal but it is something so foreign to me. It must be so overwhelming to decide on day one how many times you will eat everyday. I wander into Alliot, our dining hall, at least three times daily, so I definitely take this freedom for granted.

2. The campus bookstore was not like anything I have ever seen before and is more akin to a Barnes & Noble. It was spectacular, to say the least. Along with their books, which included a children’s lit section, they sold North Face backpacks, which is an upgrade from the usual Vera Bradley selection. Check this out-

3. It is not as green. Not as in, St. Mikes has more grass, but when I think of SMC, buzzwords like “sustainability,” and “smaller carbon footprint” come to mind. We have a competition to see which residence hall can reduce their water and electricity bill and that has to count for something.

Every school has it’s own feel, but after all they are more alike than different. So I feel it is best to sum up this post with words enthusiastically uttered long before Asher Roth. I love college.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The dog days are over

It's sad to say, but summer is winding down. Has it really been more than three weeks since my last post? Wow, so sorry but things around here have been CRAZY, caps required. My little sister leaves for college tomorrow and I leave for Peru in less than two weeks, so my house is a swarm of suitcases and check lists for packing (we don't mess around).

I have decided to compile a checklist of necessary things/pre-departure activities for those of us who are studying abroad. I'll start with the practical items:

1. PASSPORT-Make sure yours does not expire during your travels, and especially make sure that you do not realize this a month before you leave like I did. Expediting passports are expensive, this $60 could have been much better spent elsewhere.

2. Get an International Student Identification Card (ISIC, for short). For only $22 they provide emergency medical coverage and tons of discounts in more than 100 countries. Half-price entrance at Machu Picchu, here I come!

3. A good travel book. I bought the Rough Guide to Peru. Now, I'm not sure if my experience will be "rough," but it is a great source to look for transportation, food, and packing advice.

4. The necessary gear. New culturally acceptable clothes, because not everyone likes flannel and jeans like SMC does. An external hard-drive incase something awful happens to your computer. Electronic adapters. And for my new favorite things, I bought wonderful, multiple day backpack and hiking boots. Wanna see?

5. Indulge in your favorite things. For me this means marathon movie watching and mass ice cream consumption with my sister. I've also been doing a lot of magazine reading, just because newspapers are dying doesn't mean mags aren't alive and strong!

Well...hiking gear is not cheap, so I'm off to coinstar to convert all my spare change to buy a sleeping bag for below 15 degree temperatures! Enjoy all the lemonade and sun while you still can!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ain't no reason things are this way

Two nights ago I was flipping through the channels on TV and settled on a documentary on HBO. Usually I am too tired to watch television and end up falling asleep on the couch with a melted bowl of ice cream by nine o'clock. That night was different and I watched Homeless: Motel Kids of Orange County with my sister.

The title is pretty self explanatory and this program is vastly different from the typical shows about Orange County. You all know what I'm talking about: Laguna Beach, the O.C. and the Real Housewives of Orange County definitely ring some pop-culture bells. However, these kids on this documentary don't lounge by their pools, get waited on by the hired help, or even go to Disneyland which is walking distance from their motels.

Most of the children were younger than seven and their pastimes consisted of playing in the dumpsters or dangling from the motel's balcony. When they aren't at school, Church run soup kitchens are their main source of food. All these little kids wanted was a house, something I was afforded without struggle. When I was their age I wanted macaroni and cheese, Barbies, and eternal summer. The motel kids go to school in the summer to avoid staying in their discounted rooms all day long.

I know that during sometimes I can get too caught up in my own life, but this documentary was a reminder of what other people are facing. I strongly encourage people to see this program, I will be very surprised if you aren't affected.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reasons to love

Burlington, Vermont. What a wonderful place, and I am so glad that it is only an hour away from Plattsburgh. I am reminded of it's proximity daily, because friends, I have discovered that like the song, it's a small world after all.
When I go into Starbucks with my sister to buy a pick-me-up carmel frappuccino, the first thing I see when I walk in is Seven Days, Vermont's weekly entertainment newspaper. One of my professors works at Seven Days and seeing this tie to SMC makes me happy.

Last week I wrote that during the summer I do an abnormal amount of reading. Anyways, the setting of the book I just finished, The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian, is loosely based on COTS in Burlington. COTS, which stands for the Committee for Temporary Shelter, offers housing to people who are in need. St. Michael's has a very close relationship with them through the MOVE program, so it was neat to read about them from a literary perspective.

Lastly, the strangest thing happened while I was at work on Saturday. I was just wandering around the campground, doing some lovely maintenance work when I spotted someone who looked unusually familiar. He asked me where the showers were and I couldn't drop the feeling that I knew him. I looked a little closer (I had to squint, I refuse to wear my glasses) and I decided that yes, it had to be the person I thought it was. A little over a year ago I went on an extended service trip to Baltimore, Maryland. My group worked closely with a soup kitchen called Our Daily Bread. An Americorps volunteer was our quasi-boss. I guess when he's not being a Baltimore superhero he likes to come and camp in Upstate New York. This was too weird and I still can't get over the coincidence. I wish I would have told him where I recognized him from, but alas it was too late.

I am pleased to say that I will be making another return to Burlington to see the Swell Season (they are the people from the movie, Once) at the Flynn next Wednesday. I am so glad that I go to a school in such a cool place, and it's seriously strange how SMC connections pop up everywhere. Until next time!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Watching the wheels go round

I find it almost unbelievable that I have been home from school for more than two months. It's crazy! It feels like yesterday that I was packing up my beloved room in Founders to head back to Plattsburgh. So, I thought it was a good time to recap some of the highlights of my summer:

1. I went hiking with my dad and lovely dog, Millie, up Panther mountain in the Adirondacks.
2. Going to Cape Cod to see friend and fellow blogger, Michaela. The fact that I saw Taylor Swift just added to the fun.
3. A bunch of my friends came up for my sister's high school graduation. It was so nice to see everybody and revel in the beauty of SMC love. Look how adorable we are:

4. I visited my cousin, Meghan, who lives in Burlington. Together we went to the Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury. The tour we went on was full of cow jokes and ended with a free sample of Milk & Cookies. What can be better than free ice cream? While in the flavor graveyard I learned that peanut butter and jelly was once a legitimate ice cream flavor. Weird.
5. I went on my first jetski ride ever! And I loved it!
6. Thanks to a wise friend I have invested in Netflix, and it was a wonderful decision. Some really good movies I have seen are the Lovely Bones, Legends of the Fall, and my personal favorite, Whip It. It's about a girl who joins a roller derby league. Is anyone interested in starting a St. Michael's chapter? Just let me know...
7. My friends Kelsey, Shelly, and my sister went to a Passion Pit concert in Montreal. Montreal is such a fun city and the concert was amazing because we were so close to the band. Here we are, post concert enjoying the night air (sorry about the angle, it's my sister's attempt at being artsy).

8. I've been reading nonstop. At school I don't really have time to read for fun, but at home it's almost all I do. So far Jeannette Wall's memoir, the Glass Castle, has been the best.

This is it for now, but hopefully I will have many more adventures to go. 43 days until Peru!!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Decide what to be and go be it

What gets you up in the morning? A few days ago somebody asked me this and I thought long and hard about it. Things I live for are family, friends, travel, good music and the Sunday New York Times. I know this sounds sappy, but everyday I want to make my family proud and be the best possible version of myself, whatever this may be.

Throughout my life things that have influenced me have changed. When I was in middle school I wanted to be just like Rory from Gilmore Girls because she was so smart and driven to succeed. In high school my older cousin, Meghan, showed me how important it is to work hard for what I want. Now that I am in college I am constantly surrounded by people, friends and professors alike, who challenge and encourage me.

With this, five days a week I get up and go to work even though it is not something I really want to do (although I am lucky to be employed). One of my friends said that working at the campground motivates him to do well in school because he does not want to make weed wacking his life's vocation. Somebody has to do this type of work, but he is right, I don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life. Maybe that sounds arrogant, but last week I scraped yellow paint of 500 yards of curb and repainted it for the entire day. While I did derive some sense of accomplishment when I was finished, I wasn't really loving what I was doing.

It is so important to know what who you are and what you want to be, but deciding this is no small feat. My post-grad plans may change and I will have obstacles to overcome, but I am determined and excited about the future. I'm almost twenty years old, but I feel like my life is just beginning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you realize?

This week I have had one of the biggest reality checks of my young life. I like to think that I am well informed, I read and watch the news and even occasionally listen to NPR (usually only in the car with my dad). I tune in to the devastating stories about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast and the amusing one man mission to find Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. I guess it's safe to say that I am removed from these stories, understanding them at best from a distance.

I live in New York, a big and diverse state that is currently dealing with some serious financial problems. Many state institutions are closing and the ones that remain opened are running off of a series of emergency bills. As I have mentioned in my previous post, I work at a state campground. Like most of my peers, I enjoy complaining about work. However, this was jeopardized when last week my coworkers and I were informed that we would lose our jobs because the campground was closing. For me this is just a summer job, but for others that I work with, this is their way of paying the bills.

At first I couldn't believe that this was happening, but then I remembered an article warning of this possibility. I already knew about the shut-down and I found myself explaining the situation to my boss. If the budget did not pass state parks and recreation facilities along with some unemployment offices would close. This would leave more than 200,000 people jobless, myself included.

I've grown up in a small town in Upstate New York and I go to college in Vermont, which sometimes makes the news that I read in The New York Times difficult to apply to my own life. I had a revelation and it is this- news stories are everyday things that happen to people like you and me. The news is real life and even if we are not directly affected it should not be so unusual to imagine that someday, something will impact us.

Fortunately New York passed another temporary bill to fund state operations, and I am still employed this week. But next week is a new week, and no one knows what could happen. I am lucky to still have a job and I couldn't help but remember a conversation that I had with a unemployed homeless man during my service trip to Boston. He said that he would love more than anything to be able complain about work and would consider himself blessed to be a disgruntled employee. He is right and I am going to try harder to not take my job for granted.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Don't know what's down this road, I'm just walking

Hello hello, i know it's been a while. Does anyone else ever feel like they are busier during the summer? I don't know why but lately I have been so swamped. So it's a good think then that I got to go visit my good friend and fellow SMC blogger, Michaela, at her home on the lovely Cape Cod. I had a fantastic time laying on the beach, discovering my love for the Real Housewives of NYC, and sampling seafood and ice cream. I saw our friends who returned from studying abroad in South Africa and I was so happy to see them. It's crazy how the semester flew by, I feel like I was just saying goodbye to them yesterday. Along with these treats, the Taylor Swift concert that Michaela and I went to was just the icing on the cake. Everything was so much fun and I was sad to leave on Sunday.

My trip was so wonderful, so it was probably time for Boston to develop 70 mph wind and torrential downpours that would cancel my flight to prevent me from leaving. Traveling complications are not foreign to anybody but my trip to the Cape was my first time flying solo, so I had never experienced them before. After waiting at Logan airport for two hours the airport staff said my flight was cancelled. And let me tell you something, people went wild. Perfectly normal and calm looking adults were yelling and fighting over seats on the next possible flight. The employee looked like he was going to cry and then it started thundering. Glancing out the window I was more that okay with not flying in the definitely dangerous weather. This is how I ended up taking a ten hour Greyhound home and discovering that Plattsburgh even had a bus station. While on the bus I discovered via text message from my mom that the plane I was supposed to be on magically became uncancelled and took off two hours after i left the airport. Fantastic.

After all of this happened I couldn't help but think about my next airborne journey to Peru. Again I will be flying alone with the added obstacle of a foreign language. I won't know what it's really going to be like until I get there. The uncertainty of my trip adds to the apprehension I have about a nine hour plane ride by myself. I realized though, that I can do this. Staying calm is the key, which is why I can say with confidence that I will not be screaming at any airline workers anytime soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My eye's on the prize

It’s been a while, but my first day of work was today, which brought out my inner spoiled brat. I try not to let the ugly monster come out too often, but in this circumstance it was inevitable. Right now I would rather spend my days sauntering around Plattsburgh and eating ice cream with my friends. I'm not ready to work yet. I collect money in a ticket booth at a campground, and let me tell you, it is not glorious. But at least I have a summer job (does anyone else find this term an oxymoron, because I sure do).

Since work is not very exciting, it is a good thing then that I have STUDY ABROAD to look forward to. And in less than 100 days!! 99 IS less than 100. Almost a third of SMC students choose to study abroad during their four years here at school. I haven't met anyone who has been unhappy with their program, and I really think that says something. With this being said I am SO happy to become a part of this statistic and on August 29th I will be jetting off to Cusco, Peru.
I will begin with a six-week homestay with a Peruvian family. Next I will move to a village in the Andes to stay with an Incan family. Whatever happens after that is completely up to me because I am doing an independent study project. Basically this means that I get to choose a topic that I want to research and conduct it myself.

It’s hard to prepare for this while still here, so I decided to start by buying Teva sandals, as suggested by my program, SIT. They were not my first choice, believe me. I don’t really have to buy too many things, which is nice. However, the lack of purchases I have to make for Peru is balanced by the amount of vaccines I have to get. Vaccinations are ruling my life right now and three days ago I had to get tested for tuberculosis. Next week is typhoid and then start my rabies exposure, yippee! I keep reminding myself that all these shots are worth it because of the experiences I will have. Images of Machu Picchu, the Amazon River and alpacas are swirling around my head.

If anyone wants to find me I will be occupying a lovely kiosk in the the backwoods of the Adirondacks. Soak up some sun for me and until next time!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How did I get here?

The end of spring semester brings out the nostalgic side in everybody. The weeks are filled with all kinds of lasts, and because I am studying abroad, lasts for eight months. It makes me sad to think that all of the highlights of the year have are now behind me. As fun-filled as finals are I can’t help but wish that I could go back in time, maybe to P-Day. P-Day, one of the best days of the year, is our school’s “Preparation Day,” a final hoorah before the stress of finals set in. The outdoor day of enjoyment includes giant inflatables to play on that bring out anyone’s inner child, an all you can eat food tent (including my favorite Skinny Pancake), and a comedian at night. Basically in a word, it’s AWESOME. Here is a picture of my friends and I lounging on the grass outside. Can you see the inflatables in the background?

It’s so hard to wrap my head around the idea that I won’t be here in the fall. As I’m traipsing around Peru so many exciting things will be happening at SMC. I won’t see the new freshman, I’ll miss the leaves Vermont changing colors, the fabulous Halloween dance and so many more things that make this school so wonderful. I won’t see some friends for a year because they will be studying abroad during the spring semester. The next time I will see them we will be seniors. CRAZY!! My senior friends are graduating and I am left with the realization that one day it will be my turn to leave too.

I am living in an alternate reality; one that is preparing me for when I leave St. Michael’s to step into the real world. So the question is…how did I get here? It feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in my fifth grade class learning long division. I remember seeing college students when I was younger and thinking that they looked so much older than I feel right now.

The only thing we can all count on is change, and right now for me and all of you, change is good. Change means having new experiences, making friends, and seeing the world. I don't know about you, but I think that is pretty cool.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Home is whenever I'm with you

This past weekend here at SMC was pretty eventful. My younger sister Lauren came to visit me and I was so happy because I miss her so much while I’m here. Lauren, my friends, and I went to the Third Eye Blind Concert on Friday night and it was amazing. Every year the school hires a band to perform a concert in the spring and it is always a nice distraction from the end of the year crunch.

Besides seeing the concert, Lauren went to Accepted Student Open House on Saturday. My friend Michaela gave Lauren and other students a tour of campus despite the unfortunate downpour. I hung around with the group; I swear it wasn’t creepy, and observed as much as I could. Just when I thought I knew everything about SMC a wonderful tour guide surprised me and taught me more. For example I had no idea that the St. Michael’s chapel, where I attend mass weekly, is the largest chapel in Vermont and the waiting list to get married there is over three years long! Crazy!

Sadly after the tour, some sister shenanigans, and lunch at the Skinny Pancake in downtown Burlington, it was time for Lauren to leave. I was sad to see her go but when she said that she would see me in three weeks I could hardly believe it. I only have three weeks left at St. Michael’s until January. How it taken me so long to realize that I am studying abroad, I will never know.
In keeping with this realization, it is only natural that there was a study abroad meeting last night. Applying for study abroad is a bit like applying to college, so I felt the stress that you all are going through once again. This year there are 109 students who will be studying abroad in the fall in 34 different countries.

I am nervous about leaving the SMC community but by looking around the room I took solace in the fact that I was not alone. All of us are going to have exciting experiences that will be so unlike anything we have ever done before.

We are always leaving our families, homes, and comfort zones. While this may seem scary and intimidating, it is important to keep in mind that we do these things all in the name of adventure. In our lives we are constantly making new friends and becoming acquainted with new places that we can call home. How exciting is that?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Come on now, we're marching to the sea

I have good news and it's that summer is on it's way. I know this because I have my first official sunburn of the season. It's okay though because it happened while I was in Washington D.C. on Student Justice League lobbying trip. I have one word for this experience-INCREDIBLE. Let me just say this, I love Washington D.C. The history, the white marble buildings, the cherry blossoms-being a Political Science major in D.C. is like being a kid at a carnival.

But I need to backtrack first. Over Easter break a new friend of mine called me and asked if I was interested in going to D.C. with some campus organizations to lobby for social justice. The groups were going to raise awareness about issues in the Congo, where as I'm sure some of you know, some of the greatest human rights violations in the world are occurring. I agreed, and before I knew it I was sitting in a Congressman's office on Capitol Hill. Here's a picture and me and my new friend Sarah in front of the Capitol in our lobbying outfits-

Besides lobbying, I also experienced a slew of new things. I saw the Lincoln Memorial at night, went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, saw the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, and ate Ethiopian food for the first time. At the museum I saw Martha Washington's inaugural dress which is over 200 years old. Maybe it's just me, but I really think people were smaller in the 1780s because little Martha couldn't have been more than 4'9!! (not everyone I was with was as shocked as I was). I also ate Ethiopian, which requires a certain mindset that disregards the transfer of germs. There is a giant communal bowl of different foods and you use pancake-like bread to scoop it up and eat it. This is what Ethiopian food looks like after six college students devour it-

This weekend was so exciting and full of new adventures that have proven to me how many opportunities are available to us all. Our lives are ahead of us, empty but full of crazy and exciting possibilities. I hardly knew anything about this trip or the people going, but I had such a fantastic time.

Sometimes the problems in the world can feel overwhelming which can make me feel that it is impossible to make a difference. But I learned from this trip and those who went is that dedicated people can affect real change. Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." It sounds corny but now, especially after this weekend, I really believe that this is true.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Doesn't get better than home

Hello! I hope that you've all had a wonderful Easter and aren't still feeling the stomach ache that accompanies the over-consumption of Peeps and jellybeans.

During the long weekend I went home to the always exciting Plattsburgh (kidding). Nothing too eventful or noteworthy happened, but it is always nice to go home to my family. For me and most other students, the change of pace at home is always relaxing and provides a much needed break from the rush of school.

The best part about Easter is that my parents still insist on giving my sister Lauren and I baskets. It makes me wonder if they know that my belief in the Easter bunny faded around the time I lost my first tooth. Regardless, they gave me lovely gifts that included a new scarf, the movie Roman Holiday, and my personal favorite a GIANT REESE'S EGG. In order to fully comprehend the enormity of this gift, I must tell you that it weighs 6 ounces. Look at this-

My family and I go to church on Easter morning, which is always fun. Here is a picture of Lauren and I after mass on Easter-

Lauren just turned 18 and is enjoying the wonderful college selection process. I am shamelessly plugging SMC with her and I think the incessant nagging may be working. She is coming to visit me soon and I am SO excited.

Breaks usually go by far too quickly and when I came back last night I prepared myself for the final stretch. With one month left, the coming weeks here are what students refer to as "crunch time." There is a pronounced change in the air. Everybody buckles down, puts on their serious pants/thinking caps and becomes the determined student that is within us all.

This all sounds good, but being studious in 70 degree weather is always a struggle for me. I want to be outside, soaking up the sun's rays. It doesn't help that I can see the beautiful Green Mountains in the distance, begging to be climbed. I guess it's good for my productivity that it has been rainy lately. Until next time!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Let’s start with this. I am your average, everyday sleep deprived-coffee addicted-school obsessed college kid. My name is Alyssa Malone and I am a sophomore at what I believe to the world’s greatest school, Saint Michael’s College. I am double majoring in Political Science and Spanish with a minor in Journalism. In the fall I will be studying abroad in Peru, and I could not be more excited.

I come from a small city (if you can even call it that), called Plattsburgh, which is located in Upstate New York. Though it is only a short hour away, SMC feels like another world. A utopia where the mountains are green, every car has a bumper sticker, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is plentiful.

Besides these surface attractions, I was drawn to the obvious community that exists at SMC. The small classes, clubs, athletic teams, and the fact that everybody lives on campus blends to create an environment that is hard to resist.

On campus I am involved in the Student Association, Founder’s Society, and writing for the esteemed school paper, The Defender. During my freshman year I went on LEAP, a religious retreat, and it completely changed my outlook on life. I am involved in the MOVE program, which is a volunteer organization on campus. Some of my most rewarding experiences have come from traveling to Baltimore and Boston on extended service trips through MOVE.

When I’m not doing these things I read The New York Times and PostSecret like it’s my job. I also am a self proclaimed pop-culture expert, ask me anything, I dare you. I love all things Glee and the show, How I Met Your Mother probably more than any normal person. I like to run (even though I'm terrible) and I could probably live off of nutella and bananas.

My friends and I have recently dedicated our lives to crossing things off of our SMC Bucket List. This may sound a little strange, but it's not morbid, I swear. The list includes all the things we want to do here before we graduate. Some of these random goals include starting a spontaneous group dance in our dining hall, Alliot, and hiking up Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak.

Well, that's enough about me for now. I am so excited to share my experiences with all of you! Peace, love and SMC!!