The Monk Upstairs

Grounded.

I haven’t been on an airplane in thirty-three days. I won’t lie, after spending nearly forty-eight hours in the air flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Shanghai to New York City to Buffalo, it feels nice to have my feet solidly planted in one place. But, on the other hand, I’m getting a little restless already. I think these past few months I came down with a serious case of the travel bug and I haven’t quite been able to shake it. My bank account—and the bank accounts of my parents though, Shout out mom and dad! —are more than thankful that I’m not planning any more adventures for a little while. Land legs, it turns out, are infinitely cheaper than plane tickets.

So I’m not traveling at the moment and instead I’ll be reading, writing, and sprinting between classes for the foreseeable future. But this weekend I get to do something really cool right here in Geneva; I get to perform in The Vagina Monologues.

The logo for this year's monologues. Photo courtesy facebook.com

The logo for this year’s monologues.
Photo courtesy facebook.com

This play, written by the all mighty feminist activist Eve Ensler has become an integral part of the V-Day movement which is an international organization fighting to end global violence against women and girls. Pretty cool. Every year my school puts on two performances of The Monologues and all the proceeds we raise go to supporting Safe Harbors, a local organization that assists and supports folks that have survived sexual violence. Last year was my first time performing a monologue and I was basically hooked. When I was abroad in England, my feminist friend and I each performed a monologue at our program’s Open Mic Night.

Hamming it up with my monologue abroad.

Hamming it up with my monologue abroad.

This weekend I’ll be performing My Angry Vagina both Friday and Saturday with a different partner each time. It’s one of my favorite monologues that is essentially a pissed off rant about all the daily injustices vaginas endure. It’s hilarious and furious and honest. And screaming the line “Vagina motherfuckers” in front of an entire room of people is sort of the best thing ever.

Things I Learned in Thailand

  1. When hiking up or down a mountain, I will fall. A lot. The effects of these falls can still be seen on my bruised, scraped, cut and otherwise damaged legs and arms.
  2. Elephants have really fibrous poop, which makes it impossible to pick up with a pitchfork.
  3. Pineapple is included in almost every dish.

    This was part of breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner.

    This was part of breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner.

  4. Monks really do chant for alms in the morning. They probably aren’t too crazy about chanting in front of a bunch of people that don’t understand what they’re saying, but they still do it.

    Monks only eat two meals a day, so all the extra food they collect during their morning alms goes to feeding the poor, or the dogs that live in the temples.

    Monks only eat two meals a day, so all the extra food they collect during their morning alms goes to feeding the poor, or the dogs that live in the temples.

  5. The colors in the temples are unlike anything I’ve seen in any other house of worship.

    Not like any place of worship I've ever seen.

    Not like any place of worship I’ve ever seen.

  6. 7/11s are everywhere and the snacks they sell are wicked cheap. This disgusting amount of food wasn’t even ten American dollars.

    Snacks on snacks on snacks

    Snacks on snacks on snacks

  7. Wild boars like to wake up at 5:45 am. This little fella had a great morning squeal/cry/bark that he unleashed everyday.

    He's not cute. Not. At. All.

    He’s not cute. Not. At. All.

  8. Mahouts, the men who take care of the elephants, can make a stretcher out of bamboo to evacuate an American college student from the base of a Thai mountain in less than ten minutes.

    I feel like they'd done this before...

    I feel like they’d done this before…

  9. An elephant has over 150,000 muscles in its trunk, and they know how to use them.

    Don't mess with the trunk.

    Don’t mess with the trunk.

10. This place really exists.

It's real.

It’s real.

I Have, But I Bet You’ve Never…

We played this game all the time in Thailand. It always started easy with something like “I have but I bet you’ve never been to Europe”. It sounds kind of silly, but what else are fifteen twenty-somethings supposed to do when they’re sitting around a fire in remote Thailand? Our version always took a turn for the scandalous, but the general gist of the game is a pretty cool way to brag about once in a lifetime experiences, like living with a hill tribe in Northern Thailand. So if you’re up for, here’s a little bit of my bragging.

  1. I have but I bet you’ve never held an elephant’s trunk.
Yeah, this happened.

Yeah, this happened.

  1. I have but I bet you’ve never ridden up a mountain in the bed of a pickup truck.
  2. Camo hat wearing in preparation for a five hour ride up a mountain.

    Camo hat wearing in preparation for a five hour ride up a mountain. 

  3. I have but I bet you’ve never spent your twenty-first birthday walking with elephants and swimming in a waterfall.
  4. So I spent my 21st birthday seeing this view... Not too bad.

    So I spent my 21st birthday seeing this view… Not too bad.

  5. I have but I bet you’ve never eaten street food in Bangkok.
  6. Dare you to eat the bugs...

    Dare you to eat the bugs…

  7. I have but I bet you’ve never been blessed by a village Shaman.
  8. Damn right I'm still wearing the bracelet he blessed

    Damn right I’m still wearing the bracelet he blessed

  9. I have but I bet you’ve never cut down a banana tree with a machete.
  10. I have but I bet you’ve never climbed a mountain to hear monks chanting at 6 am.
  11. Misty mountains in northern Thailand at 6 in the morning. Monks were chanting in the background by the way.

    Misty mountains in northern Thailand at 6 in the morning. Monks were chanting in the background by the way.

  12. I have but I bet you’ve never ridden in a rickshaw.
  13. God bless this Thai man who peddled my ass through the streets of Chiang Mai

    God bless this Thai man who peddled my ass through the streets of Chiang Mai

  14. I have but I bet you’ve never woken up to elephants trumpeting in the middle of the night.
  15. If these babies don't melt your heart something is wrong with you.

    If these babies don’t melt your heart something is wrong with you.

So that’s the short list of my bragging from my three weeks in Thailand, but I’m sure I’ll have more in the next few posts. Stay tuned!

And I’m Off Again

This is going to be me in a few days!!Photo courtesy thailandtravelhound.com

This is going to be me in a few days!!
Photo courtesy thailandtravelhound.com

I’ve been home from England for a week and a half and in a few hours, I’m leaving again. This time, it’s for Thailand. I’ll be there for three weeks; I’ll be in Bangkok for a few days than I’ll travel to northern Thailand—Chiang Mai specifically—where I’ll work with elephants and a local hill tribe that uses the elephants in their agricultural work and finally I’ll end the three weeks at a Buddhist monastery. Not too bad. Actually, it’s pretty incredibly awesome. I still can’t quite wrap my head around just how lucky I am that I have this opportunity and that I’m going to have these experiences. I’m really blessed.

 

Floating market in Bangkok. Photo Courtesy lonelyplanet.com

Floating market in Bangkok.
Photo Courtesy lonelyplanet.com

I loved my time in England; I met great people and got to travel way more than I thought I would. This trip to Thailand is exciting in an entirely different way though. I’ve never been somewhere so un-western and so completely different from everything I’m familiar with. I think it will be challenging and the whole trip will push me, but I can’t wait. I hope I get a little tanner and that I keep learning about the world around me. I’ll keep you posted.

Whatever happens, I'm just gonna keep soaking in that sunshine.

Whatever happens, I’m just gonna keep soaking in that sunshine.

Bittersweet

A week from today, I’ll be getting on a plane to leave England. I’m excited; I can’t wait to see my parents and my friends and have Christmas with people I love and miss. But I’m also sad. Really, really sad. This semester has flown by. I feel like two weeks ago I arrived in England, but it’s been three and a half months. How did that happen?! How has time gone so incredibly quickly here?

Was this really THREE MONTHS AGO?!

Was this really THREE MONTHS AGO?!

 

With only a week left, I’ve been thinking about all the experiences—good and bad—that have happened to me and around me that have defined my time abroad and all the lessons I’ve learned from them. I’ve learned that in a program with forty-four people, you see the good and the bad and the ugly in everyone. And that’s really difficult sometimes, especially when someone’s ugly changes your entire perception of them. I’ve also learned that different relationships serve different purposes. I think I knew this before coming here, but I realized that just because I’m really great friends with a person, that doesn’t necessarily mean we will connect in every way imaginable. I learned this the hard way, but I’m thankful for it.

 

So strange to think we won't all be together in a week

So strange to think we won’t all be together in a week

I’ve formed great relationships with a lot of the people I’ve spent this semester with and it’s hard to imagine going back home and stepping back into a world where they don’t exist on a regular basis. I can already picture myself telling my friends and family stories about being abroad that they just won’t get because they weren’t there to experience what happened. But, I think I’ve realized that even though the relationships I’ve formed here may—for the most part—end when we all get on our respective planes, I’m so glad I had the chance to spend a semester with this collection of oddball, quirky, sometimes just plain strange kids.

Buncha weirdos.

Buncha weirdos.

Ireland in China in London

After about three months in England, I finally did it the other weekend. I went to London! I was only there for about a day and a half, and I pretty much only did touristy stuff, but it was great! I left at the butt crack of dawn on a Saturday morning and met up with one of my flat mates and her friend from home that is staying in Paris this semester. While it took us about an hour to find each other in Victoria Station—who knew it was so huge—once we finally met up, we were off on our adventure.

The gates outside the Palace.

First stop was Buckingham Palace. I wasn’t expecting Will and Kate to come marching out of the gates, but I do think it was bigger in my head. But, after getting over that little issue, it was pretty cool to think that Prince Harry could be taking a nap in the building right in front of me. After the Palace, we took a little stroll through St. James Park and even though it was a classically rainy, dreary London day, the Park was still pretty beautiful. At the end of the park, we took a million pictures of Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. We hadn’t really planned to tour Westminster, but standing outside looking at it definitely changed our minds. It was probably one of the most breathtaking structures I’ve been in anywhere in Europe. So worth the thirteen pound cover.

The entrance side of Westminster. Honestly, absolutely breathtaking.

After the Abbey was the moment I’d been waiting for since I first arrived in England: A ride on the London Eye. The massive Ferris wheel was built to commemorate the new millennium and to raise awareness about lessening the carbon footprint in not only London but all of England as well. But mostly it has really cool views of the entire city. Even though it was a foggy day and the visibility was pretty low, the view was still AMAZING. Like wow. I took probably about a million pictures.

All aboard the London Eye!

The ride lasts half an hour but it is so smooth and slow that it doesn’t even really feel like you’re moving. When we were finally done though, all three of us were starving and even though we wanted to wait and find something classically English, specifically London-ish for lunch, we ended up popping into The Slug and Lettuce, and once I had my coffee with Bailey’s, I was one happy gal.  
When we finished lunch, we took the subway to everyone’s favorite cheap, chaotic, overwhelmingly panic inducing department store: Primark. The reason we subjected ourselves to the tortures of this magical place was because we needed us some ugly sweaters for the party we were going to later that night. So after beating the crowds, we found our sweaters and hightailed it to an entirely different magical place: Platform 9 ¾. IT WAS AWESOME.

Bye Mom and Dad! Just heading off to Hogwarts!

Once we were done with HP, we went back to the house of the family friends of my flat mate that we were staying with. We had some dinner, chatted, and relaxed before donning those ugly sweaters and heading out for the evening. Long story short, we ended up at the flat of my friend’s friend who is studying abroad in London this semester. After a sufficient amount of liquid preparation, we ventured out. And made our way to an Irish Pub. In Chinatown. In London. All a very weird combination, but the night was a success and on the taxi ride home, as we whizzed down London’s still rainy and dreary streets, I felt like a regular city socialite. 

Ugly Sweater Par-tay!

 

 

C-Town

No, it’s not my hometown of Corfu, New York. It’s Cardiff. The other weekend a few friends and I ventured to the unknown territory that is Wales to spend a day cavorting around Cardiff.

The sailboats are for you Dad!

The train ride from Bath to Cardiff was brief, but it was made spectacular by a man in a speedo surrounded by his friends, heading to his Stag Party. Once we arrived, it was another quick bus ride to Cardiff Bay, where we spent most of the day. The Bay was a strange mixture of restaurants and a slightly American feel. We walked around a bit and then were seduced by a man in a boat. Ok, to be more descriptive, he was a man steering a tour boat that circled the bay in half hour tours. For three pounds we figured it couldn’t be awful and we hoped aboard. It was a surprisingly great tour; there was just enough history and facts and cool breeze to keep me entertained.

Girls in Cardiff! Plus the boat we took our tour on.

 

 

After our fabulous boat tour, we stopped at Gourmet Burger Kitchen for a DELICIOUS lunch. Then it was on to some more walking around the Bay before we caught the bus back to the city center. Here, we found a Christmas market to stroll around, and even got mulled wine. Disappointingly, the wine tasted like hot Franzia, but oh well, it was an experience. Then we found an indoor market where my friend and I bought scones for less than a pound—good deal! After all that, it was time to catch the train back home to Bath, but all in all Cardiff was the perfect day trip.

Getting ready to set sail for our Cardiff Bay tour!

Three Weeks Later…

The time has finally come for me to write the dreaded Fall Break Blog Post. When I wrote my last post about Dublin, I was so overwhelmed by everything I had to say from a weekend in the city, that I ended up doing a Top Five list. So, I’m faced with the same—albeit even more daunting question—again: How do I write a blog post about an entire week of travelling? I don’t think there is anyway to write (or remember) all of it, so I’ll go with the old stand by, the list.

My two friends and I visited Amsterdam and Berlin together, and then I went with one of them to Prague for a few days at the end of our trip. Each city was fantastic in its own way, with Berlin being my favorite by far. Wondering why each of these cities was great? Well, I’m so glad you asked!

 Amsterdam

3. The Carnival

Just a carnival in the middle of Amsterdam. And more importantly, home to THE WORLD’S GREATEST WAFFLES.

Apparently, this massive carnival in the middle of the city is an annual event in Amsterdam. It took up an entire city square and was all flashing lights, greasy food, and screaming kids. The best part? The AMAZING waffles we had for dessert every night we were in Amsterdam. They were sugar coated, crispy, and covered with chocolate, strawberries, and whipped cream. Oh yeah.

2. The Art

‘Don’t tell me what to do Don’t tell me where to go Don’t make any promises Don’t act like you like me Don’t make me cry Don’t touch me’

We bought an IAmsterdam Card for the three days we were here, and even though it cost more than I wanted to spend, it was so worth it. We saw so many museums and even got discounts on food and a free canal cruise. My favorite museum by far was the Stedelijk Museum. It was absolutely huge, and I could have spent hours in it. I never realized just how much I love contemporary art until this museum.

Me and some art. No big deal

1. The Bikes!

Racks on racks on racks of bikes!

When I told people that I was going to Amsterdam, the general consensus seemed to be that you couldn’t visit this city without renting and riding a bike. Anyone who knows me well enough could probably tell you that this wasn’t the best idea. I don’t have top notch coordination and my bike riding skill are sub-par. But, nonetheless, I did it. It was absolutely terrifying. Amsterdam is a city that takes bike riding seriously, and as a novice, I felt like I was in everyone’s way. But I survived!

Bucket List Number 36: Ride a bike along the canals in Amsterdam. Check!

Berlin

3. Sam

Meet Sam. Such a cuti

We took a free tour of the city the morning we arrived. Sam was our tour guide. Sam was beautiful. And smart. And funny. Am I gushing? Well, if you met Sam you would understand.

2. Graffiti

Berlin makes you rethink how you define art. There is street art everywhere, and it’s perfectly accepted. Some of the most beautiful art pieces I saw during the entire trip were in Berlin on walls and train stops and sidewalks.

I heart all the street art that was EVERYWHERE in Berlin

1. History

 I took German all through high school, and I took a Berlin specific culture class in college. This was my second time in Berlin, and coming back a little older and more aware of my self and the world around me, I had an even better appreciation for the entire complex, difficult, often-painful history of this city. Berlin still feels like it’s gaining its footing in a lot of ways, and upon first glance, it’s not particularly beautiful. But this city has character.

The Brandenburg Gate at night

Perfectly between two of my favorite cities

Prague

3. The Architecture

Prague definitely felt like the most Eastern European city that we visited. I mean, it was the farthest east we traveled, so I guess that makes perfect sense, but the buildings all felt stereotypically eastern. And they were gorgeous. All dark and detailed and completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen in person before.

Cloudy sky and some pretty impressive buildings in the City Center

2. The Charles Bridge

Someone told me this was the most romantic spot in Prague. It was just cold when we were there, but it was also breathtakingly beautiful. You could see the red roofs of the houses in front of you and the gothic style architecture of the buildings behind you. And even though it was freezing and drizzling and my hands were numb, the view was worth it.

The beginning of the snow, but more importantly, the Charles Bridge and the view across the water!

Grey and cloudy and a little eerie: The Charles Bridge

1. The Snow

I didn’t expect it to snow in Prague. Maybe to be cold, but snow? Definitely not. But, snow indeed it did and it was cold and kind of miserable. But that view from the gardens at Prague Castle of the red roofs below maybe, sorta, absolutely made the snow bearable.

It wasn’t too ugly I guess…

5 Great Things About Dublin

I know right, what an original, thoughtful blog post title! I kid, it’s boring. But Dublin was not. It was funky and weird and eclectic and so different from Bath. It felt like everyone dyed their hair, had kooky piercings, and was tattooed up. I. Loved. It. In fact, there was so much awesomeness that I didn’t even know where to start writing a post about this strangely fabulous city. So I did they only thing I could think of: a top five list.

5. Lego Land!

These buildings are the offices for an architecture firm. They’re right next to Dublin Castle, and the contrast between history and modernity makes them pop out even more.

Lego Land! In Dublin! Woot Woot!

4. So. Many. Statues.

There were statues for everything in this city. From various famines, to different remarkable people—if it existed in Dublin there is probably a statue for it somewhere in the city.

A statue outside of St Stephen’s Green. Seriously, a MILLION statues in Dublin.

3. Tart with a Cart

Or rather, Molly Malone. She’s pretty hard to miss, and apparently touching her is good luck. At least that’s what I told myself when I saw all those guys grabbing her…

Just hangin’ with the Tart With The Cart

2. A Rainbow

Honestly, as we were walking out of our hostel to the bus station to head to the airport, there it was. It was raining pretty hard, but with perfect clarity, there was an Irish rainbow in the sky. I think that alone was worth the trip.

And it was a double rainbow too!!

1. FEMINISM!!!!

There were lots of signs throughout the city about pro-choice groups and different women’s activist organizations, but this, this was my favorite thing in the whole city.

FEMINISM. CHOICE. BOOM.

Whales in Wales

This past weekend our whole program went hiking in Wales. Woohoo!! Wales was actually in my top three choices for studying abroad, so this little excursion was extra cool for me. We left at the butt crack of dawn and made the two-hour or so trek to the mountains of Wales, but of course we pit stopped to get snacks on the way.

So happy to start hiking!!

Once we made it to the mountain, our guide and the coordinator for my internship while I’m in Bath broke out the map and began orienting us. See, we were supposed to go to the highest point on this particular mountain, but the weather forecast called for rain, fog, and general yuckiness so the plan had been changed to a lower altitude, easier route. But of course once we actually arrived at the mountain, it was a beautiful, sunny, crystal clear day. We stuck to the easier route though, and after some mild map studying, we were off.

Sheep, and sheep poop, everywhere. Ev.Ry.Where.

It was sorta pretty… I guess….

The hike was gorgeous and full of fields of sheep that were all terrified of the giant pack of loud humans invading their space. Everything was going great until we all looked around and realized that we had  become lost in a nettle patch. Not the best thing. It was touch and go for a bit, with plenty of bleating from the surrounding sheep and ASE students. Eventually though, thanks to our fearless leader, we made it through the nettles and onto a gravel road that led us sloooooowly back to civilization.

The best part of the hike you ask? Why, the pub lunch of Shepard’s Pie back in town after we were done of course!!

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