Presenting…

Spanish phrase – ¿Qué te enmarca? = What frames/shapes you?

I have missed a few weeks now of updates! This past Wednesday was the last day of the summer course…but let’s take a few steps back.  The week after midterms went quite well, my results from the midterms were encouraging and gave me confidence in my Spanish speaking. These last two weeks were full, mostly in preparation for several projects we presented last week. We spent a lot of time in class practicing with one another and two week ago I had a total of 4 different presentations.  First up was a one-on-one with my professor in which I presented to her the information on the current event I had been following in Honduras. You go in with no notes and she asks a few follow-up questions.  Next we each had to present to the entire class a monologue based on a story we wrote on an event/person/place that shaped/framed us.  We were encouraged to be creative and dramatic with our presentation…as if giving a monologue wasn’t hard enough! Friday afternoon we had a last minute in class group presentation, thankfully nothing too serious. Each group presented on a local environmental organization.   Finally Friday night all the Spanish students participated in a Cultural Night to showcase the language to the other language students, MIIS staff and the community. Each class had to give some sort of presentation and it was also open to individual/groups of students who wanted to do something.  Our class presented a type of monologue production to showcase a) our stories of what framed us and b) our language learning progression.  We all stood in a line and one by one held a frame in front of us and said a line from our story.  We did this three times, each time with a new frame going from small to big.  Each time we also increased the complexity of our sentence. For example, my lines were:

a) “Vamos a America!” – “We go to America!”

b) “Era una chica de Sudafrica mirando en al puente Golden Gate. Que sueno” – “I was a        girl from South Africa looking at the Gold Gate bridge. What a dream”

c) “Mi primer dia en los Estados Unidos. No sabia cuantos anos mas viviria en este pais ni    seria  mi nuevo hogar” – “My first day in the United States. I did not know how many years I   would live in this country nor that it would be my new home.”

We all had at least three or four lines to memorize, plus when the person next to you stepped out to say their line you were slightly behind them doing some sort of action to add to the interest of the piece.  We really only spent 2-3 days working in class on this, and most of us don’t exactly love being on stage. But…we did it and we didn’t make any big errors and I don’t think it was too terrible! The two lower level classes had more fun pieces, one filmed and showed a short telenovela and the other filmed and showed a music video, a remix of the song Bailando but instead saying Recylando (Recyle). Both were really fun! The highest level course recited a beautiful and powerful poem on the issue of immigration and ended the night with “Este Tierra es mio, este tierra es tuyo” (This land is my land, this land is your land).  There were also two students who sangs solo pieces. It was a great night but we were all ready for a break afterwards!

Every day last week each of the language programs did a cultural event, most of them were in the afternoon after class. The students had various tables with sample food, art, games and other interesting cultural connections with the language. It was really fun to interact with the other language classes and learn a bit about other cultures.

Besides learning Spanish I have taken plenty of opportunities to enjoy the location I’m living in! I still visit the beach as often as possible…sometimes for our lunch break during the week.  I went to the largest Rodeo in California a few weekends ago in Salinas, hiked more at my favorite spot in Point Lobos and explored a new beach just past the town of Moss Landing.  This past weekend was the Feast of Lanterns in the neighboring town of Pacific Grove which is a Chinese celebration of lights.  They end the festivities with a firework show at the beach which I was planning to attend…but then I got an offer I could not refuse.  A classmate who works on a whale watching boats invited a few of us for a private tour to watch the fireworks from the sea! It was my first time out on the bay by boat and it was wonderful!

Here are a few pictures…more info on the final weeks of the program to come!

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Rodeo Time!

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Can you spot the whale!

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Pt. Lobo!

 

20170728_200720Celebration after a long week

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Halfway Point

Spanish Word – Chatalar/chatalando – to chat/chatting

This past week marks the halfway point of the summer intensive program. Wednesday and Thursday we completed our midterms. These tests are more of a mid-term placement test to see how you are progressing in the language. You complete tests that cover interpretive reading, interpersonal speaking, presentation writing and other similar areas of language learning. It was a bit difficult to study for this type of testing because there wasn’t really a list to memorize or topic to study…you just had to keep practicing your language. I think what helped me the most was meeting with my classmates and just chatalando. I think the tests went well, I did get a bit nervous during the Presentational Speaking portion where you have to talk on a topic in front of a few classmates, but I survived. Overall it is a bit crazy to think that when I started I could string together a few words to explain where I was from or basics about myself…but now I can discuss my political opinion or my understanding of a piece of art. Just to be clear, I can’t give super detailed discussion in rapid Spanish…but I can manage.

This is such a great program, I really feel like I’m improving and my professors and classmates are all so supportive! I think one thing that has been really helpful is the list of resources the professors have given us to study Spanish. Websites like Wordreference.com , spanishdict.com and conjuguemos.com  that help with translation and grammar explanation and practice. Other websites like lingro.com and lyricstraining.com also have great ways to learn a language. Finding shows/movies on Netflix in Spanish, reading in Spanish and the radio in Spanish are more ways to integrate the language into your life. Our latest assignment in class was to find a news event in a Spanish speaking country that you can follow over several weeks. I found a story from Honduras covering a major environmental fight to try prevent a building of a dam. The main environmental activist, Berta Caceres, was assassinated last year in March and just a week or so ago her daughter (also an activist) was attacked as well, thankfully she survived. A close friend of Berta’s was sadly killed a few days later. I find this to be a very interesting story because the major investors in this project include a Chinese company as well as the World Bank, now they are beginning to withdraw and the Honduran government is sending mixed messages about what parts of the projects were approved.  I have been attempting to read all the news only in Spanish (which is our assignment) which means I am definitely missing some of the key information. Here are some articles (in English) for those interested:

European Banks-Honduras-Dam-Project

Daughter-of-murdered-Honduran-activist-survives

On a lighter note, I didn’t have class on Friday (midterm break) and went hiking with a few friends at Jack’s Peak. This hike is about 15 minutes from my house and you get a great view of the Monterey Bay area. It was a bit steep on some parts for out-of-shape me but we did finally find the view spot and it was beautiful!

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View from the top

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You can see Fisherman’s Wharf down below

This week I also visited a new beach, Marina State Beach. This is in the neighboring city of …. Marina! A few friends and I climbed up the sand dunes and watched the waves crash and the squid boats catch as the evening began.

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Adios!

Sea Monterey

Spanish Word(s) – el mar (the sea), el oceano (the ocean)

This has been a strange week since we didn’t have class on Tuesday, July 4th, it sort of throws you the rest of the week. The sunshine has returned so it didn’t really matter what day it was as long as I could catch some sunshine! This week I have tried to go to the sea more.

Pacific Grove Marine Gardens State Marine Conservation Area – Monday after class I just went and stared out at the ocean for while, climbing the big rocks and finding hidden spots to snap pictures of crashing waves. I love these moments of finding the harmony of life at the beach. I saw a few whales in the distances, spotted an otter snacking and one day I will be able to name the beautiful birds I saw all around the shoreline. I am so thankful to be living here! Spotting whales, otters, seals or sea lions is so amazing…but here it’s a normal thing to see!  I highly recommend this beach area if you want to clamber over rocks and find tide pools. You can also walk quite a ways along the beach to many beautiful spots. There are a few dirt parking lots as you drive along the coastline.

 

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Pacific Grove Marine Garden

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Pacific Grove Marine Garden

Carmel Meadows Beach – Tuesday I continued my sea adventures in Carmel at a beach just past the main downtown area. There I met other SILP students of a bonfire at the beach to celebrate July 4th. It was a beautiful spot! We spotted whales, dolphins a seal and a surfer. I found a few interesting tidepools too! This beach is less crowded than the other Carmel and Monterey beaches, it has beautiful views and based on my experience lots of sea life to spot! You do have to take a lot of stairs or long trail down to the beach, so keep that in mind.

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Wednesday and Thursday I did not make it to the beach. I have to do homework sometime 🙂

Monterey State Beach – Friday a classmate and I spent our lunch sitting on the main beach and wading in the beautiful blue sea. It was so refreshing! This is a very popular beach, but it does have the classic beach feel with the golden sand, sunbathers, kids making sandcastles and lots of beach umbrellas/tents.  The water here is calmer because it is sheltered. It is also a long stretch of beach and you can walk all the way to seaside. Just above is the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail if you need to get off the sand and walk.

Monterey Aquarium – After class (and some homework) I headed to this famous aquarium with a few friends. You can buy an annual pass which is totally worth it, so I’ll be back to the aquarium.  It was such a nice aquarium! We didn’t have a lot of time but we did see the main exhibits. They have a kelp forest and huge sea turtles! They have huge, old bass and tons of little sparkling sardines and anchovies. The jelly fish exhibit was mesmerizing.  One of my friends is a local and will be studying environmental policy with a focus on the ocean in the Fall, so we had our very own tour guide to tell us everything we needed to know about all the sea life of the area and the aquarium, it was great! I definitely recommend going here. The ambiance of the place is wonderful, you feel like you are in one of those underwater documentaries. There are also plenty of fun things for kids of all ages.

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Del Monte Beach – Today I spent the afternoon walking the Monterey State Beach which at it’s furthermost point, almost to Seaside, is Del Monte Beach. You can also access this part by road. It is still popular but not as much as the Monterey State Beach nearer the Municipal Wharf #2. All along the state beach there is plenty of sand and sand dunes to find a good spot to read and/or enjoy the waves. I also went in for a swim which was so refreshing! The water was actually not that cold, just a bit of a cool breeze. After my beach time I explored the two wharves, Municipal Wharf #2 is a commercial wharf where the fishing boats come in, there are also people fishing from the wharf and places for the public to buy fresh fish. Fisherman’s Wharf is the tourist spot. Here you can buy your souvenirs, try many samples of clam chowder, dine over the water with a view of the marina and leave of a whale watching trip. It was a bit crazy walking this wharf at 5pm with all the crowds, but it was worth the free chowder!

 

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Monterey State Beach

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Municipal Wharf

Every place I have gone around here I have just been overwhelmed with the beautiful creation of the world and all that live within. I was watching a huge school of fish at the aquarium just go round and round and learning how you would only see something like that in the depth of the ocean. How many hundreds of years did these fish go unseen before at last man saw that for the first time. What a beautiful discovery to see for the first time! What beautiful sights have been hidden around the world for us to discover! How grateful I am at the gift we have been given by a God who loved us enough to create all this wonder for our enjoyment! What a privilege we have to be the caretakers too!

The Second Week is History!

“Estámos aqui en la lucha” – We are here in the fight/battle.

This is the phrase our Spanish professor taught us earlier this week…because language learning is a battle! This week certainly felt like a struggle. I think we all left last Friday feeling awesome and then we forget all our Spanish over the weekend and on Monday we felt deflated. Of course the weather took this moment to begin it’s change to full on clouds and coldness everyday, no afternoon sunshine. But I stuck through the week and by Friday felt a bit better, a bit more realistic about my language learning. It did help that last night was a Trivia and Pizza night for all us students. Free pizza? Yes please! This week in Spanish we covered grammar (of course) but we practiced through some interesting topics. Our assignment started the first week with writing an Ode to an object that represented ourselves, based on the Odes to common things by Pablo Neruda. I went with one of my many mugs, this one with a whimsical picture of Jefferey’s Bay and dolphins. This past week we had to do a black and white portrait of ourselves that reflected our object (which represents yourself). It’s a cool concept but a bit hard for me…I think I’m too literal for this type of assignment. But thanks to the help of my other two classmates/photographers I got a shot I liked. This next week we’ll put that with our Ode as well as an artist statement for a full project. Please note all the writing is in Spanish. We’ve been doing a lot of watching shorts and listening to songs and discussing and analyzing them. I want to say it has been fun…but it can be hard to have a discussion in English about your identity or the negative impact of tourism, so try doing it in Spanish! Our professor assures us that we have all grown in our language ability in these two weeks…but I think we all feel about the same.  The key is to not be too hard on yourself and to keep pushing yourself to talk a bit more in Spanish, watch a bit more of a show in Spanish and take the time to put Spanish in your everyday life. Maybe next week the blog will be in Spanish 🙂

On a lighter note! This week I got to tour the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo (aka the Royal Presidio Chapel). This is one of the oldest cathedrals in the US, built in 1794 by the Spanish when they came up the California coast and built a fort (aka Presidio) in Monterey. It was an interesting tour and history of the area.  The church was built three times, the first church was very make shift when the Spanish first arrived, the second church was built from adobe (mud and sticks) so it didn’t last very long either and the final (and current) church was built from cut stone. It was recently restored so inside the walls look very new and the patterns are fresh but based on the original. They have installed window type viewing areas in some spots along the wall were you can seen the original wall. It was very interesting. The tour was conducted in Spanish and English for the Spanish language students.

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Cathedral of San Carlos

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Spanish group outside the cathedral with one of the original priests…he is to scale! (photo courtesy of SILP)

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Whale vertebrae used as stone for sidewalks!

This week we also went as a group to the Monterey Farmer’s Market. This is a really nice market every Tuesday just a few blocks down from the campus. Tons of fresh and local fruit and vegetables and wonderful food. A few street musicians add to the fun. Of course our assignment was to speak in Spanish with some of the food vendors who knew we were coming and students of Spanish.  I splurged and bought a Churro and some cilantro.

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Montery Farmer’s Market! (photo courtesy of SILP)

 

Well, that’s all for now.  I’ve got homework to do!

¡Hasta la próxima semana!

New Town

Spanish Word/Phrase of the Week: ¡Nos Vemos! – a way to say goodbye, loosely translates “we will see each other”

I have been in Monterey about three weeks now, though sometimes it feels like I have always been here. At the same time, I am still filled with the awe and joy every time I see the beautiful vistas and history of this town! I have completed one full week of language school and I feel excited for the remaining seven weeks. My first two weeks were filled with unpacking and getting situated in my apartment. I love my place! It’s only about a five-minute walk from the school and downtown Old Monterey, maybe ten minutes to Fisherman’s Wharf and the sea! From my kitchen window and deck, you can see the ocean peeking between the roofs. Many mornings I wake up to fog and for some reason, my habit has been to run over to my kitchen window to see if I can still see the sea…as if all is right with the world if it is there. So far only one day of the three weeks I was not able to see it, and even then you could sort of make it out. We have actually had really nice weather, if we have fog in the morning it burns off by lunch and we have sunny skies in the high 70s with a nice breeze. Apparently that is not normal for this time of year, usually, it’s foggy most days. I’m hoping for a “not normal” summer!  Between unpacking and running errands I tried to explore the area as much as I could. I found the local library. I explored the history of Monterey at local museums. I discovered amazing views and creation outside Monterey on Big Sur highway, and I discovered local views from 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. I enjoyed an afternoon at the Monterey State Beach and biked/walked the neighborhood. There is so much more to see and do around here and I mostly walk around with a stupid grin while I do because it is just so beautiful and interesting here! It’s still a bit of a dream.

Between unpacking and running errands I tried to explore the area as much as I could. I found the local library. I explored the history of Monterey at local museums. I discovered amazing views and creation outside Monterey on Big Sur highway, and I discovered local views from 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. I enjoyed an afternoon at the Monterey State Beach and biked/walked the neighborhood. There is so much more to see and do around here and I mostly walk around with a stupid grin while I do because it is just so beautiful and interesting here! It’s still a bit of a dream.

Obviously, I love this type of scenery, beautiful golden sand beaches, gnarly rocks with moody ocean waves crashing on them.  Green hills, forests, and seaside vegetation. Basically any day you can go see a seal, sea lion or otter in the bay. I also love the history. Monterey was the capital of Spanish-Mexico, the capital of independent Mexico and (I’m pretty sure) the capital of California when it first became a State. Monterey was vital in the Mexican-American war as an important harbor. So much history here and so many local historians only too happy to tell you all the interesting stories!

So that was my first two weeks.

Week one of language school has been good. We started on a Thursday/Friday for orientation so I got to meet some people in all the language programs (Arabic, Chinese, Russian, French and Spanish) and then there were also break-out sessions for your specific language. We did the typical orientation photo-scavenger hunt around Monterey and I found out that Monterey has a tree that has been to the moon! Well, the seed went anyway.  Friday afternoon we had our first actual class which was mostly introductions and expectations. I am in the Intermediate-I Spanish class with 11 other students. Our normal schedule is 3 hours of Spanish in the morning with one teacher, a lunch break and then 1.5 hours of Spanish in the afternoon with a second teacher. Halfway through the 8 weeks our afternoon teacher will change. In total, we will learn Spanish from three different teachers all with different backgrounds which is very helpful to understanding different Spanish accents as well as learning styles. Both the teachers we have now are amazing! The students are great too, everyone is excited and motivated to be here and encouraging to one another. During orientation one of the staff members told us that we will most certainly have days we want to give up language learning…because it is HARD! In those times we need to reach out to our teachers and classmates for encouragement. I feel like I can do that. Our teachers do a great job of encouraging and challenging us.

The program has a mix of students. Some are here just for the summer to learn a language and others will be here in the Fall (like me) to continue at MIIS (Middlebury Institute of International Studies) in a master’s program. If you are interested in learning a language I would encourage you to check this program out, anyone can apply at all levels, there are very beginners to high intermediate.   http://www.miis.edu/academics/language/programs

Here are a few pics from the last few weeks.

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The famous men of Monterey, Cannery Row

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17 Mile Drive

 

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Lone Cyprus, 17 Mile Drive

 

¡Nos Vemos!

Thailand Adventure

This past December/January I had the great opportunity to go to Thailand…Chaing Mai to be exact.  My little brother was getting married and my now sister-in-law is originally from Thailand. Thus a wedding in Thailand! Over twenty friends and family from the Seattle area made the trip for the great celebration! I traveled with three other friends from Seattle to Toyko, a few hours layover and then on to Bangkok. We spent the night in the Bangkok airport and then flew out in the morning to Chiang Mai on Thai Airways, which is an amazing airline known for it’s baked goods which were delicious! We were in Chiang Mai for about two weeks and while there were plenty of wedding things to do we also had lots of time for fun and exploring.  Some of the things to see and find in the area are:

The Thai Elephants

Not the real ones (though you can find them at various places), but these beautiful art pieces that are all over the city and the world! Each uniquely designed by Elephant Parade and you can buy them and support helping elephants.

The Old City

You can still see parts of the original wall, 700 years old! The corners and the gates are still there to be seen and you can see more of the wall at the Chiang Mai Historical Centre within the city. The city is surrounded by a mote. It is a very packed area with many beautiful temples, some interesting museums (I recommend the Lanna Folklife Museum) and many coffee shops and hostels. Another place to visit is the North Gate Jazz Co-op. This night jazz club had some real talent, just know it gets crowded to come early for a seat.

The Markets

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Treats at Waroros Market

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Waroros Market

You have to see the Sunday Market which runs from Tha Phae Gate in the Old City. It is a well-known market and has so much to see and find. The Night Market is every night outside of the Old City a few blocks, the booths are on the street as well as inside the market building. Everyone’s favorite buy are some elephant print pants and shirts with the unique elephant designs on them. Both have some great food to offer too! Every day you can also wind through the Waroros Market, it is close to the river. I didn’t spend much time here, you can find all your unique eating options at this one like worms and bugs and frogs. I know there are other markets to see and find, but these are the ones I visited.

The Cafes

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Free Bird Cafe

 

Before I went to Chiang Mai I looked up things to see and found this blog talking about cafes: http://www.paperplanesblog.com/50-of-the-best-cafes-in-chiang-mai/  and there are so many more than 100 cafes. Everywhere you can find coffee! I tried out Free Bird Cafe, had an iced chai latte, very yummy. It was a good one and had a little thrift shop attached too, they are a non-proft that helps families in northern Thailand. I also visited  The House, there I had a coconut juice that came in a coconut…so pretty fresh! It was a fun little place and the Elephant Parade store is right next door. I guess I’m not the best judge for coffee shops because I don’t like it…but these two places were nice places to chill. Both had free wifi.

The Transport

 

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Tuk Tuk

 

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Red Songthaew, passengers ride in the back

 

 

I tried the songthaew (a small truck) and a Tuk-Tuk. The songthaew is by far the cheaper option and I think you can get by not knowing any Thai as long as you have the address, it helps if it’s a well-known landmark like The Old City or a hotel. The songthaews are in about three colors, each color represents where they run. Some have fixed routes, others will take you where you need to go like a taxi, others specifically go further outside the city. The Tuk-Tuk was fun and came in handy when we needed to get from the one gate in the Old City to the other gate quickly.

The Food

There is so much good looking and smelling food. I was glad to have my sister-in-law and her sister to help me figure out what to try. I would love to tell you all the dishes to try but I can’t remember the names. I tried lots of good noodle dishes, the fried fish was very delicious and I had some really yummy veggie dishes. Every morning our host served us delicious fruit, some I knew (like mangoes and papaya) and others I still don’t know what they were (Thai names only). Some other things to try are the Mango Sticky Rice (a dessert of Mango and Sticky Rice soaked in sweet coconut milk), Iced Tea (of the Thai variety, so much better in Thailand!) and finally Roti, this is sort of like a crepe, but not really. You can have it many different ways (sweet or savory) but I enjoyed the banana-chocolate kind.

Outside the City

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sticky waterfall

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sticky waterfall

I didn’t venture too much outside of Chiang Mai, but we did all take a trip to the Bua Tong Sticky Waterfalls. This waterfall out in the jungle/forests of Chiang Mai is of limestone and it makes it sticky, or grippy, and easy to climb up the waterfall.  They do have ropes tied to the trees as there are a few spots that the moss has grown and it’s slippier, but for the most part, you climb up and down the waterfall feeling like Spiderman! Really great! Unfortunately, the day we went was a bit cool and drizzly (unusual for their dry season), but it was still fun!

Another spot was San Kamphaeng, this area has all the factories. The silk factory, the umbrella factory, the gem factories and much more. We rented a songthaew who drove us up and to all the factories. Most of the songthaews (the red ones) you can rent to take you to a specific place, the drivers also have laminated “menus” of all the main places so even with no Thai you can point at where you want to go. I heard the drivers get a commission if you make purchases at the factories so there is some extra motivation for them. I enjoyed most of the factories. The umbrellas were beautiful and fascinating to see how they are made. The silk factory was really interesting as well to see how they process silk and to watch the women weaving. Most of the gem factories were not as interesting, just seeing stones polished and then being ushered in to show rooms full of jewerly outside of my price range. The lacquer factory was also interestng, I had seen some ancient pieces at the museum so it was interesting to see how it is made and how long the process takes. And lastly the wood factory had amazing carvings and you could watch them carve…they have stellar eyesight and talent!

Khum Khantoke

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This is a really great event to go to. First, the food is amazing, and they just keep bringing out more! And second, the show is really beautiful.

I could write a few more paragraphs on this trip, but I’ll give my readers a break.

 

 

Boots & Hat Ready!

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Last year I got to get away from the Northwest and head South to Texas! I’ve driven through the top of Texas, through Amarillo, saw the Cadillac Ranch, but that has been my Texan experience.  A dear friend lives in Fort Worth and invited me to come for a long weekend. It was my kick-off weekend to my 30th Birthday. Heeyaw! So I grabbed my boots purchased in Tennesse and my hat purchased at the Ellensburg Rodeo and boarded a plane to the great state of Texas! And in three days we did as many Texan things as we could! Friday evening we ate some delicious tacos from a local taco truck.  We ate Fort Worth famous Melt Ice Cream! And we caught the end of some Friday Night Lights.  Saturday we explored a real-life Texas Ranch, cheered on the TCU Horned Frogs and finished the day with some Texas beef at Reta’s.  Sunday we attended church and then joined friends and family for real good BBQ.

I then hopped on a plane and headed home to the gray…I mean great Northwest.

So much more to see and do in Forth Worth, but it was a great sampler of Texas for sure! Thank y’all for the hospitality!

Landesa

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Last Summer/Fall I had the opportunity to work at Landesa. Truly a God given opportunity! I had begun the summer looking for a full-time job, applied for quite a few positions, and then I came across this volunteer position with Landesa.

First a bit about Landesa.  It is a non-profit organization based in Seattle, WA. They work to secure land rights for those in poverty. This long term solution to end global poverty is so important! According to their website, 3/4 of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is vital.  Many make a living off the land, land that they don’t own. Landesa partners with the local government, communities and other NGOs to help secure land rights and educate people about those rights. Check out their website wwww.landesa.org to learn more about their programs.

For the summer they needed a volunteer to help with their Visiting Professional Program (VPP) that is hosted by Landesa’s Center for Women’s Land Rights. The opportunity to work with such a well-known NGO that does incredible work in global development was too great to pass up. I decided the experience and connections gained by volunteering for a few months would be worth the bus fare into Seattle by far! So I put off my job search for a while. And then an amazing thing happened…within two weeks of volunteering the woman coordinating the program resigned giving her two weeks notice! Thankfully I had proven my administrative abilities and picked up the tasks I had been given quickly and so they decided to hire me as a contractor to help coordinate the VPP through October! It certainly pays off to take steps of faith! So from July through October, I worked with Landesa staff to plan and coordinate the VPP.  This involved communicating with the 8 international professionals to gather all pertinent information for the program, organizing their travel and housing, working with the project manager on the schedule, communicating with staff and visiting guests on the program topics and lots of problem-solving to get everything ready! During the 6 week program, I assisted in the set-up for the sessions, assisting the speakers and professionals with their need and in general made sure everything ran smoothly.

A bit more about the Visiting Professional Program.  This program sponsors around 8 international professionals working in land rights and/or women’s rights to come to Seattle for a 6-week training program that explores land right topics specific to women’s rights as well as helps build networking connections between the internationals as well as with Landesa staff.  It is a great program that fosters learning. Imagine you have a Landesa senior staff member giving a presentation on a certain aspect of land rights such as land tenure (land ownership) and after there is a discussion with professionals from Tanzania, China, India and other countries giving firsthand accounts of what it looks like in their communities. Many of the professionals that come have not had the opportunity to go to many international conferences and so it is an amazing experience for them to hear how things work in other countries and discuss these topics with other professionals. For me, not knowing very much about Land Rights I gained so much knowledge from being at Landesa and also from the visiting professionals. An added bonus was that this group of VP’s ended up becoming amazing friends!

After the contract was up, there, unfortunately, was not a full-time position available for me, but that was okay. My time there, the people I met and learned from, the knowledge I gained, all made me ready to begin my journey to grad school.  I always wanted to get an MPA but didn’t want to invest in a degree (aka taking on more loans) without a clear vision of what I would do with it.  At Landesa I was able to see and learn about many positions with program operations that helped me figure out what I’m good at and what I would enjoy.  I learned a lot about women’s land rights and international women’s rights issues in general.  Ever since my Spice Girls/Girl Power days at age 10, I have been interested in women’s rights but my time with the Center for Women’s Land Rights helped me narrow down my interest.  I am so grateful for the amazing women in that department at Landesa who took the time to talk with me about their work, teach me about their jobs, encourage me, mentor me and help me with my resume and grad school application.  It was awesome to be in an all female department next to another all female department (Research, Monitoring, and Evaluations) with some brilliant and kind women and leaders…so inspiring! I hope to join them once again!

If you are reading this looking for an organization to support or a job, I highly recommend Landesa. They also have a great internship and research assistant program.

Alright, gushing over Landesa complete 🙂

 

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Group Photo at the end of the VPP.  7 Visiting Professionals (8th one had already left for home), the VPP Landesa Team and the two co-founders of Landesa (Roy and Tim)

 

South of Here – Part II

To continue the SA journey…

After Cape Town, we headed out on the highway to Jeffrey’s Bay.  Jeffrey’s Bay is known for it’s surfing. The town has grown a lot since I lived there as a kid. It now has its own little mall and a high school. When I grew up there you had to bus to the next town over when you reached high school and you had to drive almost an hour to the “big city” (Port Elizabeth) to get to a mall.  But the surf vibe is still there. There are plenty of surf shops and there is a Billabong factory store with a few other factory stores.  There are also plenty of B&Bs, guesthouse and holiday homes to stay in.  When my family lived there, those places were for the rich.  Now we came with the US dollar so the nice guesthouse overlooking the ocean was a great deal! We stayed in a great guesthouse called Beach Music. We had two rooms, one had a kitchenette so we could cook our own food while there. The accommodation does not offer any food, there is a common kitchen for guests to store and prepare food if they don’t have a room with a kitchen.  This was such a great location, it’s situated up above the beach with stairs that lead straight to the beach.  It’s one of the most popular surf spots so in the mornings you can watch all the surfers go out and on several occasions we also watched dolphins go by!

While in J-Bay we mainly visited with friends and family, including driving past all our old homes!

We did go one day to Kragga Kamma Game Park, a small nature reserve about 50 minutes from Jeffrey’s Bay.  I would say it was an okay place to go.  Previously we went to Addo Elephant Park which is the third largest in the country, it is just a bit further out from Port Elizbeth about an hour and fifteen minutes.  We only had half a day open, so not enough time since it is a bit further out and much larger to drive through. I highly recommend going to Addo.

There are lots of nearby towns to visit as well.  Paradise Beach is where my Oupa lives. This area is nice because it has not been overloaded with houses yet.  The beaches are not as popular because it’s outside the town and not quite a surfing hotspot.  Paradise Beach just has one tiny corner market (like an AM/PM), so a good idea to pack a lunch and find a beach! To get to Paradise Beach you drive west about 15 minutes and cross over the Seekoeirivier, this river often attracts flamingoes, so you might be lucky and see a few! Further west along the coast, about another 20 minutes or so, is St. Francis Bay and Cape St. Francis. You will have to head inland a bit to the main highway to get there as there are no coastal roads connecting them to Paradise Beach.  St. Francis Bay is beautiful! The town has a rule that all homes must be white wall/black roof. Many have thatched roof homes. There are quite a few waterways that weave inland that people have their homes on.

Cape St. Francis is the next town over and is tiny, only a small little bait shop and that’s about it! They don’t have the same housing rules.  Cape St. Francis is home to “the perfect wave” described in the surfing movie Endless Summer.  It was the perfect wave because of its shape and how long it broke for before crashing down.  You will still see those lovely long waves, but not quite as perfect as in the movie from the 1970s because of housing developments that have changed the way the wind blows off the sand dunes forming the waves.

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When we first moved to this area when I was little, we lived in Cape St. Francis. Just a block or so up from the ocean. I love this place, it is my favorite place in the world! I love the rocky oceanside, the crashing waves, the smell of sea salt and the seaside plants and I love the little lighthouse. I could stay here forever!

In recent years they have also relocated the penguin rehabilitation center from Aston Bay (which is on the Seekoeirivier across from Paradise Beach) to Cape St. Francis. It is open to visitors to go learn about the penguins and other sea birds rehabilitation and you can watch them being fed. My mom used to volunteer with them when I was a kid and it is also a common school trip you go on where you get to help stuff the fish with medicine for the penguins to eat. DSC_0244

It was a wonderful time being in my hometown, even though it had changed a lot and most of my friends have since moved on to live in the bigger cities.  If you are thinking about a trip to South Africa…try to get Jeffrey’s Bay on the list!

I should say a bit about the drive from and to Cape Town. It is about an 8-hour drive. When we left we drove straight through to Jeffrey’s Bay along the coastal highway commonly known as the Garden Route.

We didn’t stop very much on the way through, you could do the route over a few days there is so much to see! We stopped for a few pictures at the Bloukrans River Bridge where there is a bungee jump of 200 meters (about 656 feet!), it is the highest bungee jump from a bridge.

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There are many beautiful spots to stop along the way and we stayed outside Plettenberg Bay in a place called Moon Shine on Whiskey Creek.  They have cabins out in the woods, very unique place. While they don’t serve food their cabins have kitchens and you can order food from them that they will deliver, such as eggs and bread for breakfast etc.  We didn’t have much time there to explore the hiking trails, I would say try and plan to stay there a few days to enjoy the area.

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This is the very unique bathroom in our cabin. So many great touches like this in each cabin!

Heading back to Cape Town we drove the inland route through the Klein (little) Karoo, a semi-desert part of South Africa.  It is out in this area you will find many ostrich farms, including ones you can visit and learn about the birds and even ride on them! I did not do that this time but I have toured the farms before and seen others ride on the ostrich…not for me though.  From the Karoo, you head back into the Western Cape and begin to see the green again and wine country.  We stayed the night at Aasvoelkrans, a neat farm house B&B outside of Montagu. Montagu is about 2 hours outside of Cape Town, on the other side of the mountain tucked away in a valley.  It is a beautiful little town and our accommodation and breakfast the next morning was perfect!

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In the wine country

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Leaving the dry Karoo and heading for the green Cape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The other tenants at Aasvoelkrans

Finally, we ended our trip with a few hours in Cape Town seeing a few old friends.  Can’t wait to go back again!

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Beautiful architecture in Stellenbosch, a town just outside Cape Town

 

 

South of Here

Still trying to catch up with my stories! Last year around this time I was enjoying a trip back to my homeland, South Africa! It had been 10 long years since I had visited and I joined my parents, brother and his fiance on the voyage south.  We landed in Cape Town where we spent a few nights until driving to Jeffery’s Bay, our hometown. We mainly hung around Jeffrey’s Bay then slowly traveled back to Cape Town to depart back to Seattle.

Cape Town

 

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View from the bus

 

We stayed at the lovely Finchley Guesthouse , with a beautiful view of Table Mountain behind it and a short walk to the sea it is perfectly situated in the Camps Bay area of Cape Town.  The room was comfortable, the breakfast delicious and the staff kind and friendly! We walked about 10 minutes to the main road by the seaside and caught the red double-decker Hop on Hop off tour bus. This was an excellent choice! From the Camps Bay stop the bus circles around all the main points of interest of Cape Town including the Victoria Waterfront and the base of Table Mountain. You can hop off at any point to further explore the city and hop back on when the next bus comes by.  You are also provided with headphones which you can plug in on the bus and hear an audio tour of the city as you go through. I really enjoyed this! We intended to hop-off at Table Mountain but with the low clouds, a trip up the mountain would have been pointless so we kept going around again and got off at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The waterfront has many shops to explore, an indoor market and a marina.  You can take boat tours from the waterfront as well.  While we explored the waterfront we watched as the clouds lifted and revealed Table Mountain, the jewel of the city!

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There is also a large shopping mall, while there I visited a great boutique called Feature Store, owned by a childhood friend. This shop has a great collection of locally made fashion and home goods! Loved it! At the retreat of the clouds, we headed for the mountains! We had arranged for a rental car for our trip to pick up at a nearby hotel.  This was a better option than from the airport on arrival. At the airport, we had a shuttle arranged by the guesthouse pick us up. This is a good option, especially when arriving late at night because some of the highways are not quite safe. Anway, back to Table Mountain! You drive up to the base and from there take a cable car to the top.

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There are also hiking options for the fit and able.  At the top, there are many trails to walk and explore the amazing beautiful flat mountain top! There is also a little gift shop and cafe.  It was a beautiful view of the city and ocean!

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That was our time in Cape Town! The next morning we left and began our drive on what is known as the Garden Route eastward towards Jeffrey’s Bay.

 

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View from part of the Garden Route drive…it only gets greener!