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Morocco

A Walk on the Wild Side

sunny 75 °F

Wow. What a trip is all I think I'll ever be able to really say about my 3 day trip in Morocco, but I want to share some of the experiences from the trip that have opened my eyes and affected me the most.

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Getting There

I left Dijon in France early Saturday morning to meet up with my four American friends who I've had the pleasure of traveling Europe with this semester. When we all arrived at the train station, we were waiting to see the platform number for our train to Lyon, and in France it's totally normal to not know your gate until 15 minutes before your train leaves. Well, our train never really arrived, or never left, rather. We never did figure out if it was due to a typical French strike or if was just "supprimé" just because, but we now had to take a later train to Lyon to catch our flight, leaving us with a tighter window in Lyon. I've learned to just kind of let go when traveling and let the adventure happen, especially in Europe and unfamiliar places, because you never really know what'll happen. You just have to relax and kind of go with the flow, or you'll get too stressed out and possibly forget something important... We had to wait a few hours for the next train which we passed laughing at all our stories we've collected from this semester together. When we eventually made it to the Lyon train station we had to take a tram out to the St. Exupery aeroport, a 25 minute ride plus the usual airport nonsense. All went smoothly and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but because my friend had checked a bag in Lyon for his flight out, guess what he left at the train station? His passport. Of all things you can do without when flying from Europe to Africa, your plane ticket and passport are the two things you can't. So it was time to form a plan B.

We all decided that he would go back to Lyon station to get his passport and attempt to make it for the flight while we went and waited for him at the gate. At the airport we had to go through 2 or 3 security checkpoints, and the passport check was miserable. No line, mob chaos, 6 stations with only 2 open (typical French efficiency), and the four of us only made the flight with a few minutes to spare. We waited there on the plane twittling our thumbs hoping he'd show....but minutes later the flight was off and we were without our partner. I was pretty sad since I knew how bad he wanted to go on this trip, and the most frustrating part was none of us had means of contacting him to figure out where he was since we're not in our native country and phone service/wifi can be hard to get. It was a smooth flight with a beautiful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, and 3 hours later we landed at Al Massira Agadir airport in Morocco. I had officially landed on a fourth continent!

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We proceeded to take a cab to our hostel hotel only a few hundred yards away from the beach. This marks experience number one for me. If you've ever seen videos of traffic problems or wild traffic patterns in Africa in class or on the Internet, well, it really does look like that. There are medians and lanes, but no one uses them. Our cab driver drove right down the middle of the two lanes! Whenever he needed to pass he just flashed his brights and cars would move over. And most of the cars are old beat up clunkers that feel like they're going to break down every 5 seconds from the jerking while riding. All of the road signs were interesting too. Because Morocco (le Maroc) was a French colony once, all of the people there speak Arabic as their primary language but know French as well. Because Arabic is read right to left, all signs read French from left to right and Arabic from right to left. It was pretty cool to see. Half an hour later, we arrived at our hostel hotel (which was really nice and cheap too, pool, balcony, beach view, free wifi, 10€/night) and immediately jumped on the wifi to message our travel partner to figure out where he ended up. Very long story short, he ended up back in Dijon, never attempted to make the flight, and had already booked a flight out of Paris for Agadir for the next day. I was pretty excited to have him join us, but it meant that we needed to get all of our "forgetting something?" and "boom roasted!" jokes out before he arrived. We ordered room service for the night since the area around us looked kinda iffy at night and crashed, safely and soundly in Morocco, Africa.

The Moroccan Sun

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Sunday was a lazy day for the four of us, which was a really nice change from most of our travels. Europe is so packed with things to see and do that you can never really see everything, so being able to relax and hang out was really nice. We got up around 11am, and headed to the boardwalk and the beach. I haven't been to a beach in a while since I'm definitely more of a mountains and snow guy than a sand and the ocean guy, but let me tell you, this place was gorgeous. The sand was a little bit more orange colored than most of the beaches I've been too (from what I can remember), and of course I had to go stand in the ocean. I think I might have been the only of my friends who actually went and stood in the water, but I figured life is too short not to stand in the ocean on an African beach, and I'll probably never be back. So, Chaco flips in hand, I ran around in the waves on the beach. The pictures turned out really well too, which I've linked at the end of this entry. That afternoon our travel partner arrived, and now that we were a complete group, we decided to venture out a little bit.

The Souk

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This marked culture experience number two for me here. I'm sure most people don't even what a Souk is, but it's a traditional Moroccan market place of sorts where you can buy almost anything. It's partly open air, partly covered, loaded with souvenirs, trinkets, foods, black market goods, fake bags and shoes, and everyone is in complete Islamic attire. Wowee wowzers. I felt pretty uncomfortable in there at times, but I kept reminding myself that I didn't go to Africa and Morocco to feel comfortable, I went to take a step out of my comfort zone at times, eat weird foods, see a new part of the world, and learn and grow a little bit bigger as a person. The place was crazy. Agadir is loaded with shop vendors eager for your money, and it's not quite as easy to hide as in Europe since we're all white and obviously not Muslim, so we were hesitant to talk to people who approached us. But, a very nice man who works for the government of Morocco gave us a nice short tour of the Souk, and didn't ask for money afterwards. I also considered it an accomplishment that I spoke French to him initially and he didn't guess correctly that I was from the US until after trying France, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand first. I was weary to let on to anyone we were Americans while we were there for fear of being judged, so I played the French card as much as possible on the trip. This brings me to another observation.

On our way to the Souk when we refused to take directions from a Moroccan (since he was probably going to ask for money after), he called us all racists. It's really depressing me that the world feels the need to judge people, anyone for that matter, in any way. You either talk to the man and take his directions to get to the Souk where he asks for money and you lose, or you refuse and he calls you racists for refusing to talk to him. Saying no isn't an option with these people either, it's more of an invitation for them to try harder to sell you. The media today plays up stereotypes and creates false perceptions of people often times in areas of the world that they don't understand. You always fear what you don't understand, but that doesn't mean it's bad for you or even wrong in any way. I wish people would stop judging. We met plenty of very helpful and nice Moroccan people who were delighted to talk to us about America and why we had chosen to visit their country. It's too bad, really. Not all Americans think every turban wearing guy or woman in full Muslim dress is sent to blow up a car in a town near you these days. I should add that it's pretty fascinating to spend time in a country where Islam is the national religion too. Every room has a sign somewhere that points the direction to Mecca, and during the day you can hear loudspeakers come on with a call to prayer and sometimes people just stop to pray. It's a pretty mind blowing experience to me. I don't agree with their religion necessarily, but to see someone's devotion to their faith can be a powerful thing sometimes, and I think it's always important to understand where someone is coming from too because it helps you better understand why you believe what you believe. And if you can't justify why you believe what you believe, then, well, what do you really believe in anyways?

The Camel Ride

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Monday afternoon we had reserved a 5 person camel tour, since we all thought it would be insanely cool to "ride camels in Africa". And, it was. And, we took tons of hilarious pictures that I'm sure will soon be on Facebook... But the camel experience was something pretty special in a lot of other ways too. We rode the camels through a little bit of a desert, national park, to a bird estuary, and through some small African villages. First, the bird estuary and national park on the Sous River was gorgeous. I've never been anywhere quite like it. It was kind of like the stuff you see in Planet Earth in some ways, but to actually be there was amazing. And the African sky is just...unique. It's different and unlike anywhere I've ever been, too. We rode through some African villages on our way back too, which was eye popping in an incredible way. On our left side we had a walled up lush, green, golf course with gorgeous sweeping views of the mountains near Agadir, on our right we had fences where African villages were, and around our path there was trash. Tons of trash. It was striking to me how polar the world is sometimes. We continued forward into another village where kids were kicking around a soccer ball, women were hang drying clothes, and men we in shops. Buildings were just concrete and cement blocks, most of which had wavy tin rooftops held down by more concrete blocks. And around all of it - was trash. It was a, although brief, look into the world that some people live in. I mean, it wasn't your typical commercial of starving kids in Africa who are paper thin and dying where they ask you to call and make a donation, but it was pretty eye opening. It fascinates me to think that that's the way of life for some people, and yet we listen to people in American complain sometimes about stuff. Never again. It's a reminder to how lucky some of us really are. At the end of the ride we parked our camels at a fence, yes- parked our camels, and enjoyed some traditional Moroccan tea before heading back to our hostel hotel.

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Meals with Friends

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We headed out for dinner on the boardwalk shortly after arriving back at our place (and after posting our obnoxious camel pictures on Facebook and Twitter, of course). I decided that for dinner I should probably try some traditional Moroccan food, so I ordered a Tajine, which ended up being really good. We were able to watch the African sun set over the water on our way to the beach too, which was gorgeous. We had had lunch earlier in the day on the boardwalk as well, so the dinner topped off one hell of an amazing day with friends. It hit me again how polar the world can be though, it's all happy and fun on the beach and the boardwalk (minus the panhandlers) but half an hour away it's poverty and a fight to live day to day. I was awesome to enjoy such good meals and scenery on the beach with friends though, since we all have to part ways tonight to fly home this week. I'm going to miss these kids, that's for sure, but hopefully we'll all be able to visit each other though, since we all live in the same country at least.

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The Journey Home, or, Europe, Rather.

Tuesday morning we all woke up much too early to catch a cab to the airport, which again was somewhat eye opening. We got to see the sunrise from the cab, but drove through some pretty rough looking areas. Again, concrete apartment buildings, many without windows. Trash was everywhere, and people were all standing around at what appeared to be a bus stop. The apartment buildings were unfinished concrete walls, and in some ways resembled a bird coop in ways, grey, dull, dirty, boring, and darkness inside the window without a window pane. It was amazing to see something like that. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the airport, passed all security and passport check points (yippee! no more visa drama or Préfécture visits!) and are now sitting on board a plane back to Lyon. Hopefully we have smooth travels from here back to Dijon where we'll all have to say our goodbyes and part ways to head back to the good ole US of A in a couple days (Africa today, Europe tomorrow, North America Thursday...woo!). It's going to feel good to be home, no doubt, but I wanted to write an entry on my short time in Africa that has taught me so much more than I expected. I left Dijon knowing next to nothing about Morocco and Agadir and attempted to let down all walls and become a sponge to absorb as much as I could from the new cultural experience. I think I succeeded, and I hope you've gotten a few things out of my experiences too.

Cheers!

--Scooter
--@scott_treks

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Picture Gallery

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Stand on the beach in Agadir

The camel tour at the estuary and National Park

Posted by la vita bella 10:22 Archived in Morocco Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains lakes beaches bridges churches buildings skylines people animals birds sky snow night planes boats trains rivers desert paris hiking france culture history travel hotel bus train trekking village river backpack friends garden life live country family africa love hostel photos language french bike morocco europe happiness camels mtn graduation denver international college dijon eye student abroad american chapel panoramic atv experiences residence osprey catholic cultures marrakesh relationship lose learn lyon scout study teva iphone agadir laugh learning euros 360 scouting scouts nigeria girlfriend esc camera+ francophone sncf listen Comments (1)

My 6 L's to Happiness

Found again at last

rain 45 °F

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Over 2 years ago in the summer of 2009, I spent 3 weeks in a place called Philmont. For those who aren't familiar with Philmont, it's a Boy Scout high adventure base in New Mexico just south of the New Mexico and Colorado border. I took part in an 11 day backpacking trek there in the summer 2007 and fell in love with the place. It's been nicknamed "God's Country" by many, and I'll tell you, they don't call it that for nothing. I returned in 2009 as part of a 3 week Rayado trek with 7 other guys who I had never met, but are some of my best friends now because of the things we accomplished together during those 3 weeks. Those 3 weeks were the best experience of my life to date, and has only been rivaled since by my study abroad experience. We'll see where the two stack up when I get home in a couple weeks and can have a chance to reflect. On this 3 week experience, our two staff guides immersed us in what would be known as the "Solo" experience.

During the morning of this solo experience, all maps, compasses, watches, and GPS devices were removed from our 8 person crew. We soon veered off a trail and down ravines and over some hills. I still to this day don't have the slightest clue where in God's Country (or in God's name for that matter) we were taken. The guides split the 8 of us up, one by one, in complete and utter silence. We were all taken to random places and given a water bottle, sleeping bag, journal, and tent rain fly. Nothing more. With the exception of when they brought me small amounts of food, I passed the next 48 hours until they returned alone. I knew we were at around 10,000 feet altitude, but that was about it. It rained twice, and was a constant struggle to keep the shelter I built from blowing away to keep my down sleeping bag dry, essential for warmth during the night.

During these 48 hours, I wrote a lot in that journal, which I took with me to Europe during my semester abroad. Unfortunately, one of the things that I did not write down were the 6 L's to Happiness that I came up with while I was there during that solo experience. I remembered them for the rest of that trip but for some reason never wrote them down. I couldn't remember them when I got home months later, and then they came back to me at one point, but I forgot to write them down, again. I told them to an old girlfriend at one point, but she doesn't have them anymore either since they were erased when we parted ways last year. Every now and then I try to remember what they are, and all I can come up with is Live, Love, Laugh, and Learn, which is all over Google and every high school girl's tumblr page. But for whatever reason when I was in Paris with my family last week for a few days, they all came back to me. All six. So I quickly wrote them down, and I wanted to write a short blog about them in the hopes that you'll save them somewhere too instead of losing them for 2 years like I did. This was one of the greatest things I got out of Rayado, one of the greatest experiences of my life, so I hope you'll get as much from these as I did and still do.

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My friend caught me sleeping on a beautiful morning on Rayado

Live

One of the questions that keeps coming to mind as a wrap up my time in Europe and my study abroad experience and look back at these 3.5 months is, would I be happy with what I did today and the way I lived today if I died tomorrow? It seems like an extreme question to ask sometimes, but I try to remind myself of it as often as I can now. Instead of taking all the short cuts in life to get to where you're going faster, why not take the long road? Why not see what's around that other corner instead of walking home the normal way. Sometimes life's greatest adventures and experiences are right around the corner, and you'll never find them if you don't take a chance and look. Take chances, take risks, and do your best to make sure that when you wake up tomorrow morning, you don't have any regrets about today.

One of my favorite quotes from my 800 page Ralph Waldo Emerson book reads as follows, "My life is for itself and not for a spectacle." I think you should strive to live your life every minute of every day exactly the way you want it to be lived. You should live it for what you want it to be and not for what anyone else thinks it should be. When I look at my life sometimes, I question myself for how true I am being to myself. And if you're not and you're letting other people make decisions for you when you know you'd rather be doing something else, you aren't living your life, you're living the life someone else would rather see you live. It's something worth thinking about to me, and I do my best to make sure I live my life the way I want it to be lived so when I get old some day I don't have a lot of regrets.

Someone read me a quote recently and I don't remember where it was from exactly, but I found it to be especially useful to me as I'm preparing to graduate from college in 6 months: "Don't be so concerned with making a living that you forget to live." It's pretty simple honestly, but it's something that so many people forget about in this rush to work society we live in. Everyone is so concerned with making a living, getting the highest paying job they can, and falling into a routine of constant work that they forget to live sometimes. I hope to have a decent job when I graduate, but if I'm more concerned with the monthly paycheck than enjoying what it is I'm being paid to do, something isn't right to me. Remember to Live.

Laugh

They say that life is better if you just remember to smile every now and then, and I think it's true. (How many of you just smiled?) Laughing is part of smiling, and I think it's important to laugh as much as you can. Life is meant to be enjoyed! So if you're not laughing and smiling, you're doing something wrong. I also think it's important to laugh not just at the world around you (in a good way) and funny moments, but it's important to laugh at yourself sometimes. Don't be too hard on yourself and don't take life too seriously that you forget to laugh at yourself and have some fun. Remember too that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. If you make a mistake, try to laugh at yourself next time, learn from it, and move on. It's good for you, I promise. I never met a happy person who didn't know how to laugh from time to time, so try it.

Love

This goes hand in hand with so many things. Love your family, love your friends, love what you do (if you don't, find something else to do), but I think when looking at those things, you first have to love yourself and your life, and love it for what it is. If you can do this first, the rest will follow and be infinitely more rewarding. Love your family because when everything else in life falls, they'll still be standing there with you. Love your friends, because they've always got your back, and you learn so much from them. You only get into something what you put in, so love your family and love your friends and you'll be loved in return. And if you're not, you've got the wrong friends.

Listen

This is one of the ones that I came up with on my own to add to the L idea, largely because I was alone in the woods for 48 hours by myself. You listen to things around you subconsciously, and you learn a surprising amount of things sometimes if you just take a minute to stop and listen to the world around you. With listening comes learning too, which I keep mentioning and will get to at the end. I think it's important to listen to not only what's around you (for me that was in nature at the time), but also to listen to the people around you. Friends. Family. You learn from them more than you think. Listen to what they have to say and value their insight, it will benefit you later in life. Listen to your parents too. You won't always want to and you won't always agree with what they have to say (I know I still don't), but they have your best interests in mind and are there to protect you. So whether you want to or not, listen to them. Sometimes listening to friends, family, or nature around you brings peace too if you let it in, so I think it's important to listen to what's around you to find happiness.

Lose

This is the second of the six that I came up with on my own during that solo time, and might seem kind of odd to some. How is losing a step to finding happiness? But for me it's like a lot of other things in life, when you're broken down you tend to build yourself back up stronger and better prepared for next time. You learn from nearly everything you'll ever lose, whether it's a family member you wish you could have spent more time with or a your keys at a party because you drank too much. If you never lose anything, you'll never learn how to be better prepared for next time, and you'll never build yourself back up as a stronger person in the future. It's also really cliché to say, but if you never lose something you'll never know how much (or how little) you really had in the first place. So I think it's important to lose sometimes to find happiness, especially at those rare moments in life when you lose something and realize how much happier you are without it. But you wouldn't have known that without losing something in the first place. It breaks us down but allows us to come back stronger and better for it. Part of losing though is learning to pick yourself back up.

Learn

Everything I've already mentioned seems to come back to this somehow. You have to be willing to lose to learn how to pick yourself back up. If you listen to what's around, you'll learn from what's around and hopefully learn how to take from those experiences and incorporate them into your own life. You learn from your family and you learn from your friends, and you learn from loving them in many ways. You learn from your own mistakes and you learn how to avoid them in the future. You learn from everything you do in life, and knowledge is power. The more you learn and know, the happier you can be. Try to learn as much as you can from the people and the world around you, it'll help you figure out who you are a lot of times and will make you happier as a result.

Find Happiness

So in summary, if you want to find happiness, it starts here with these. Live, laugh, love listen, lose, and learn. I don't think I've found anything that made me happy in my life that can't be somehow traced back to these simple ideas. They serve as a nice reminder and reality check sometimes too. I try to continually reevaluate my life week in and week out to make sure I'm where I want to be and if I'm not happy with something I want to know why so I can understand it and hopefully fix it. It always comes back to these. I hope people have enjoyed reading this, and if anyone has any feedback or comments on this idea I'd love to hear them too! Too cliché? Funny? Dumb? Thoughtful? Enlightening? Different?

Au revoir!

--Scooter

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Posted by la vita bella 07:04 Archived in France Tagged landscapes waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises mountains churches skylines people trees snow night rivers paris hiking france travel colorado trekking river backpack aspen ski friends philippines life live country family love man creek rome hike eagle smile happiness mtn denver international college god student abroad american boulder experiences sherman relationship lose learn scout solo study iphone laugh learning prepared shavano princeton scouting scouts girlfriend esc listen rayado philmont Comments (5)

Paris, Morocco, Home.

All good things must come to an end...for now.

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A lot of things have transpired since my last entry, so here's everything you need to know about what's changed and what's coming up in the next few weeks.

Dijon

Since my previous entry, I still have not managed to leave this country, or this town for that matter. It's been kind of weird not being constantly on the run with traveling like the first two months of my stay here, but definitely nice also. I was talking to one of my Filipino friends this week who traveled with me those 8 weekends in a row and the 12 day European Excursion (http://lavitabella.travellerspoint.com/29/) and he's been traveling every weekend still. It was interesting to hear him say that he's starting to feel a little "jaded" now with all the traveling going on. It's an awesome like and I wouldn't trade being able to travel like this for anything, but it wears on you more than you ever think it will. That said, resting in Dijon isn't half bad either. It's allowed me to go out to the bars and clubs more with friends here, which is a cultural experience in itself. I've also learned a ton about Dijon weather... Fog. And more fog. Since arriving home in Dijon on November 2, I have seen the sun twice. Today and two days ago. As a Coloradan, we get over 300 days of sun every year. You really learn to appreciate that sun when you don't see it for days and days on end. It was starting to drive me crazy even on some days when you couldn't see more than 10 meters in front of you. So, I'm thankful I don't have to live in places like San Francisco or Seattle.

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Travel

My favorite part of every entry is writing about travel, so here's what's coming up since I haven't been anywhere recently. This week I am headed to Paris on Thursday morning to be reunited with my family for Thanksgiving. I think it has the potential to be the best Thanksgiving of my life to date, too. I can't imagine a better way to spend the holiday than with family and to have them fly around the globe to celebrate it here is incredible. I am so lucky and thankful for that, and I plan on giving them all a huge hug when I see them on Thursday. I'm spending the following few days with them around Paris visiting all the sites like the Notre Dame, the Louvre, and of course the Eiffel Tower, before heading down to Dijon for a few days here with them. In Dijon I think we'll just enjoy the little town and it's Notre Dame, do some wine tours of the Burgundy region, and possibly visit Beaunne, which is an absolutely awesome tiny little town outside of Dijon.

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After they leave, I have about 10 days more of classes to conclude the semester and then my American friends and I are flying to Agadir in Morocco for a few days on the beach down there. This trip still blows my mind. I've never been to Africa. It will mark my 4th continent I've visited, it looks absolutely gorgeous, and it should be an incredibly different cultural experience than anything else I've ever walked or breathed in. So, I'm super excited, and the trip isn't even very expensive ($170 roundtrip plus hostels!). I am still slightly worried about safety and water and stuff, but the more research I do the more my fears are lessened. I'm pretty excited to end this study abroad trip the same way I started it to. Four American friends of mine and I spent 3 days in Rome together during our first week abroad, and we're ending it together too, complete with African beaches and camel rides to a wild bird reserve. Feels pretty awesome. It'll be pretty weird to travel from Africa to Europe on December 13, and then Europe to North America on December 15 too, 3 continents in 3 days. That blows my mind over and over again. That all said though, it's also time to start thinking about home.

Home

I can't believe it's already here. While I'm certainly ready to go home to familiarity and a culture and language I fully understand, I've enjoyed my time here too and learned a ton. I learned everything I didn't expect to learn and nothing I expected to learn. This past week, I've been in touch with my boss back home working out my schedule for work when I get home, which will be gladly welcomed since I'm starting to feel the pressure on my wallet after no paychecks since June 1. This past week I also registered for graduation. Good lord, how did that come up so fast?! I guess people really aren't kidding when they tell you college will be the best and fastest four years of your life. It's a surreal feeling, but also one of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that I've made it this far and successfully completed the major and double language minor I aimed for the day I accepted my letter from DU. It's weird that now I have to start thinking about the future, the real world, and planning for the rest of my life. I won't rest until I find a job in the mountains somewhere working in the ski industry, but I don't know exactly how I'll get there yet. I've explored the ideas of coming back to the French Alps or Italy to work in the ski industry as well, but who knows where I'll end up yet. First up is completing the Colorado Trail this summer after graduation, a goal I've had for a long time. It's amazing how fast time really does fly sometimes. Only 25 days left until I'm home in beautiful sunny Colorado! Thanks for reading, and I'm looking forward to seeing all you all soon!

PS. I'm working on two epic blogs currently, one to wrap up all of study abroad with tons of pictures and my favorite experiences, and another to take the last six months of my life and sum them all up into one, simple, word. Props to anyone who can figure out the word!

Au revoir!

--Scooter

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Posted by la vita bella 10:31 Archived in France Tagged me landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains beaches bridges buildings people parties trees animals snow night planes trains beer cathedrals desert tower paris hiking france culture travel hotel bus colorado train trekking metro river backpack city ski friends philippines cathedral sculpture family africa castle hostel photos language french hike eagle wine morocco europe camels gondola mtn graduation switzerland denver international housing college dijon swiss student abroad alps american panoramic experiences residence osprey catholic cultures notre dame architechture marrakesh relationship law lyon scout study iphone agadir learning euros 360 prepared rmvr scouting scouts città nigeria beaune girlfriend esc dieu camera+ Comments (0)

The Journey Continues

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A lot has changed since the last time I wrote last week, so I'll do my best to bring everything up to speed...

Friday was a pretty good day, with my second real class here in International business. The class was on International Management stuff, which is a pretty simple and easy subject, but also pretty interesting to hear taught in an international environment like this. The professor is German, and is very open minded about everything, and I like open thought/questioning type environments, so I think it'll be a good class. Like many of my other classes so far, the grading looks pretty simple and straightforward, and the class is actually scheduled through the end of the semester unlike my law class, so it should make for a good class and allow me to continue to plan out crazy travel adventures. Friday night I packed for Strasbourg for the weekend, which was awesome.

Saturday morning I got up a little bit early to skype with my girl, only to find out things are working out anymore and she won't be coming to visit for Thanksgiving like we originally planned. A little bummed, but I'd be lying if I said it came as a surprise since I've predicted this "relationship" almost start to finish now. And it's not all bad, because it should allow me to travel more freely without as much concern, experience French culture a little bit more, and it means that when my family visits over the same week or so, I'll be able to spend a lot more time with them. I'll be able to act as their translator with what French I do know and get to spend a lot of time with them, which is great. I'm not sure what she'll do with the round trip plane ticket she has to France, but she said she'd figure it out, so I guess that's that. I'm kind of bummed that I won't get to take a girl out for a romantic evening here in France, but it's probably for the best. So much for having a girlfriend while abroad, but I think there are a lot of opportunities for me to pursue that might be better off done single anyways over the next 12 months, so here's to those.

That said, I took my lightly packed Osprey backpack (which continues to be one of the best investments I've made in the last year or two) and headed off for the Dijon train station to meet up with two other American friends and 5 other Filipino friends for Strasbourg for the weekend. We arrived in Strasbourg around 2 in the afternoon, travels were problem free, checked into our hostel, and headed out to explore. We first went to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is absolutely stunning. The kids from the Philippines said it was more impressive than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is the famous one, so I thought that was pretty cool. We paid a small fee to be able to climb to the top of it, where I took a bunch of pictures and a 360 shot. After that we made our way to the area of Strasbourg called Petite France, which is adorable and really looks like old timey France. The houses, cobblestone roads, bridges, rivers, and so on. We ate dinner at a restaurant here, which was pretty good. Then we made our way back to our hostel, hung out for a bit, watched some tv in English on the tv in our room (they had 2 English speaking channels!) and then went to bed.

The next day we got up, checked out of our hostel, and headed out for some more exploring. Sunday was cool because we went to the garden of two rivers which is on the Rhine River and is really pretty, and we had a beautiful day for it. We took the really artistic bridge and crossed the Rhine also and went into Germany, although briefly, for lunch. We explored a little town called Kehl in Germany for a bit, and then headed back to Strasbourg. We wandered around for a bit longer, checked out the Ponts Couverts, and then caught our train home. Strasbourg is a really cool city! It had lots of rivers running through it and around it, and the culture is very interesting because of how much German and French there is there. Although we were only there briefly, it was an awesome trip. Next weekend, some friends and I are headed to the real Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, which should be awesome. I'm super excited to see what it's like, enjoy some good beer, and hopefully not end up too tipsy. The weekend after that the American guys are heading to Paris to visit family in town, but the Filipino kids are all heading to London I think they said, so I may try to tag along with them for that trip. I have no preference in where I travel really, as long as it's somewhere new, different, and interesting. I'm trying to visit as many places over here as I can in a short amount of time, but it also exposes you to an incredible number of different cultures as well, which has been amazing and fascinating. A trip to somewhere in Switzerland is coming sometime soon also, just not positive when. The options are endless over here, it's incredible.

This morning has been another adventure, although a less fun and less exciting one as I continue to try to sort out all of the problems that I'm encountering at this residence here. They have told me now that if I don't pay the remaining balance of 500 Euros (which is their error and I don't think I should owe), they won't replace the two burned out lightbulbs in my flat, so I think I'm going to go replace those on my own later. It's been a rather disappointing experience with this place, and every hostel's shower and bed, hostels not hotels, mind you, have been nicer than what I'm paying for here. But I'm locked into this place for another 12 weeks, so it'll just be an ongoing issue to see what happens next. Other than that, life here has been and continues to be incredible, with each day and week bringing on another new challenge or adventure to explore and allow me to grow as a person. Below I put some links to pictures and a few new 360s from the Strasbourg trip, so be sure to check those out, and look for more to come from future adventures!

Photos of Strasbourg: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2461367895547.2140848.1292672395&l=549a8910f5&type=1

360 on top of Strasbourg Notre Dame: http://360.io/uJjQv9
360 in the Jardin des Deux Rives: http://360.io/6FzKYD

Posted by la vita bella 12:20 Archived in France Tagged beer rivers france travel train trekking germany backpack philippines garden cathedral family tv photos wine europe international housing dijon abroad business american panoramic residence osprey oktoberfest notre dame relationship law jardin petite study iphone strasbourg euros 360 skype girlfriend esc ponts couverts kehl camera+ Comments (0)

France Update

Thoughts on paper.

overcast 65 °F

Milan Train Station in Italy
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No really significant updates in this entry, just felt the need to write. Thoughts on paper. In an odd sort of way it's a great outlet for me, soothing, and just nice to get things out. I'll do my best to get things caught up since returning from Rome to the best of my memory.

Sunday

Sunday was a relatively nice rest and catch up day. Despite how awesome Rome was and all of the unbelievable things we got to see, I was ready for a day to relax and sit for a little bit. I basically spent Sunday on housekeeping related things around here. Still unsure if the bed bugs came from Rome or my studio here, I cleaned the entire place. Swept the whole room, cleaned the kitchenette spotless, etc. I found no signs of them here, but as of today on Thursday I still can't say I know where they came from for sure. Sunday I also wrote some postcards to friends and family back home, wrote the previous blog, skyped with my parents and skyped with my girlfriend, and so on. Lots of little things that just needed to get done, and seeing my family back home and my girl was great too, as always. The letter I received from my girlfriend the night I got home from Rome was a nice little treat also given how much I miss her here. Not a bad day, especially given that everything in France is closed on Sundays. Everything.

Monday

Monday was a very good and productive day. I had received mail from the bank here that my ATM card was available for pick up, so I went to get that, which was a huge relief. Not only did I get it on my first visit to the bank that day (great success), but it worked and I no longer have concerns for running out of money here in Europe. Both great things. That day also I went to the train station with the other American friends of mine to try to book tickets for future trips, but had no luck because I guess these trains fill up early, no matter where you're going according to the first guy we spoke too, so that was a bit frustrating. That evening I attended my first class here in Dijon, French Intermediate, which went pretty smoothly. The professor speaks no English, which might prove to be difficult at some point, but I understood nearly every word she said, and could speak better than some kids in my class while not as well as others, which to me says I'm right where I should be. The grading seemed pretty fair and relatively easy enough, so that's always a plus. Monday I also received my first care package from home, from my mother, which had my scale from home, a razor since I blew mine in the outlet the first time I tried to shave here, a wireless router since wifi is hard to find here in Dijon, and another converter and adapter for outlets. Amazingly, having not weighed myself in two weeks and eaten everything that looked deliciously European, I hadn't gained an ounce. Not bad!

Tuesday

Tuesday was a less than fabulous day here. I didn't end up doing much for most of the day, and when I did finally try to go do something (meet up with another international student from Germany at the gym), the gym was unavailable for use, which was disappointing. My wrist was giving me problems for most of that day, which was also pretty frustrating. I still think that something in there is broken or messed up, more than a sprain, but who really knows at this point. All I can do is hope it heals by the time I'm back in the States and if not, I'll have to get it professionally looked at along with my knee to figure out what's wrong. I also returned to the train station again that day with the other American students, to no luck with booking anything. That afternoon while relaxing in my apartment my bed broke for the second time also, so add that to the growing list of the many reasons why I'm already tired of this residence. Tuesday night I was back from class and realized that my International Law class which has been missing from my schedule and I'm told "isn't scheduled yet but will be shortly" is on my schedule, and is holding a 3 hour class session at 9:30 Wednesday morning! I swear this school sometimes... Anyways, seeing that I went to bed since I knew I couldn't sleep in, and I was frustrated with the day.

Wednesday

Wednesday turned out to be a much better day. I went to my first real International Business class in the morning for the Law stuff, which turned out to be alright. The professor is from Peru and is fluent in Spanish and French and good at English, although at times he turns to me for help since I'm the only native English speaker in the room. It looks like the majority of our grade in there is going to be based on the team project, which we began on Wednesday without even realizing it. I am in a group with four other students from Germany, Mexico, Pakistan, and China and our task is to find a common natural resources problem in our country and build a treaty around it with the others. Pretty cool to see it from a global perspective like this too, something I definitely wouldn't get in a class at DU. After class I went to try out the school gym, which worked out ok. Not having access to a legitimate bench press free weights machine for the next 3 months is going to be rough, but I was able to find enough things in there that I shouldn't lose too much strength hopefully. No one else was around while I was trying things out too, which was nice for me. I'm definitely sore today, but hoping to go back there tomorrow to give it another try. The last French class of the week last night was good, and not too much homework is given by this professor apparently, so that's always nice. I did it this morning so I won't have to worry about it while traveling this weekend, and it was super easy. Good start to the semester. Yesterday a light bulb burned out in my flat as well, which is not the biggest deal in the world, but mildly frustrating since I've only been here two weeks. You can add that to the list of frustrations I have with this residence also now, as well as still figuring out if I have bugs in my flat. The highlight of yesterday though was probably booking travel for my next two weekends with other students here. I've given that it's own section at the end.

Thursday

Today turned out to be a pretty good day. I was able to sleep in and relax most of the day, and then went to my French culture and societe class this afternoon. It turns out the same professor teaches the class in English and French back to back, which may come in handy. I definitely feel that my comprehension skills are lacking in the class which is in complete French, but it'll force me to pick up the slack and get better at speaking and listening to French, which is good. And I can't take the English version anyways to complete my French minor, so that's not an option. I understand most of what he says, but I'm worried about the key points he makes. Guess we'll find out in coming weeks where I stand. The grading is super simple and easy also, which is again a plus while I'm over here and would rather travel than do homework. After class tonight I met my French "buddy" who ESC set me up with, which was cool. She's really nice and speaks fluent English and French and had offered to be really helpful. She didn't stick around for too long when we met up, but I have her name and number which should come in handy at some point I'm sure. Tomorrow I'm hoping to visit the gym again, I have a class for International Management, and all International students in Dijon are getting to meet the mayor of Dijon tomorrow night, which means I need to find something decent to wear. Also, a friend told me before I left that "everyone in Europe wears leather", and now that it's starting to become cooler at night, it's becoming obvious that it's true. I'm super happy since I brought my real leather jacket over here with me, which weighs a whopping 6 pounds by the way, and I can't wait to wear it out and about soon. So, that brings most things up to speed as of tonight, except travel!

Travel Plans!

This weekend, my friends and I were able to reserve tickets to Strasbourg, France. It's a town on the edge of France and Germany, and while I'm not totally sure of everything to see there, we have about a day and a half to wander around and explore, so I'm sure we'll find something. We'll be heading out Saturday mid morning and returning late Sunday night, making a nice little trip. I'll be traveling directly with the two other guys from U of Kentucky, since the two other girls decided to go to Paris instead (mistake!), and a bunch of my friends from the Philippines are going to be there on the same train and same hostel as well. Should make for a fun weekend! And then there's next weekend....the real actual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Yeah, it's actually happening. I won't go into the details of how we're getting there, since 10 days out was last minute and we're taking about 5 or 6 trains to get there, but it's happening, and we'll be there for about 2 days. I'm pretty excited for Oktoberfest. I've never been drunk in my life, but this may be the time to try on that hat, since rumor has it the event runs 9-5 everyday and is all you can drink beer for 5 euros... Either way, it promises to be an adventure, and what pictures I take will be worth the lifetime of memories they'll create. I'll try to take plenty of pictures in Strasbourg as well, which I've heard has some pretty sweet Gothic architecture around the town. The weekend after that no formal plans have been made yet, but I'm thinking about heading to Switzerland. The other American kids want to head to Amsterdam for a weekend they'll never remember, and I'm not so much into that kind of thing, and Switzerland sounds much more fun and beautiful, so I think I may head there. Regardless, if I've learned one thing here it's that life is an adventure, you just have to go out and live it, so that's what I'm doing my best to do. Traveling the world certainly opens your eyes and teaches you a lot and you never really know what to expect, and every single minute of it has been awesome. I miss home a lot some days, but I wouldn't change anything about where I am and what I'm doing here today. I'm too blessed and lucky to have an opportunity like this, so I'm doing my best to make the most of it. Until next time, thank you to all you awesome people out there who read everything I have to say, and look forward to some awesome pictures and 360s from the travels and journeys that lie ahead!!

Au revoir!

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Posted by la vita bella 11:59 Archived in France Tagged castles cathedrals france history hotel italy rome roman dijon abroad study vail 360 beaune girlfriend esc dieu Comments (0)

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