Monday, October 11, 2010

decisions decisions..reflections reflections

In my experience studying and traveling abroad, I've found that I am able to adapt to very different circumstances. From adjusting to climatic differences to public transportation systems, new foods, or unfamiliar "bathrooms", from sleeping on a mat in the Sahara desert to a sleeping in tiny french dorm room, I've found it adventurous to adapt and interact with people of all different religious and cultural backgrounds.
I lived in France for seven months, the first two of which were with a host family where I lived with students from Sweden to Peru to Japan, attending an intensive language institute 40 hours a week. I spent a month traveling in Switzerland and Italy before moving to a new city for a semester intensive language study. I had to readjust to a new city, find my way around, make new friends etc. I met many international students (most of them Korean), and many french students as well. I got involved with the community and groups on campus to help me learn the language and be immersed in the culture.
The next semester I lived in Ghana, West Africa for five months. It seemed that absolutely everything was different there, but not in a bad way, just different. I decided that it was a new adventure to figure out how things work in Africa: how to get around in tro tro "busses", bartering at market, eating local foods and learning local languages. I volunteered teaching orphans in a neighboring village, learned african dance and drumming, and most importantly made friends with Ghanaian people rather than just staying with obronis (foreigners) the whole time and not getting to know the culture.
At the end of my semester in Ghana, I gave away everything that couldn't fit on my back and backpacked through West Africa, going through northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco. I met so many different people and experienced first hand the different lifestyles and customs in each country, all along the way learning rudimentary Twi, Ewe, Bambara, Wolof, and Arabic, as I spent time in markets and with local people. My living conditions ranged from living in a tent, sleeping on rooftops, on a mat in the Sahara desert, in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, and sometimes on a couch in someone's home.
I got used taking bucket showers and forgot that proper toilets existed. In all of these situations I learned above all things how to be adaptable and optimistic. Rather than choosing to be annoyed or frustrated, I learned to laugh and find the adventure in the journey.
After living in a village in Ghana or making my way through the Sahara desert, adapting to another kind of living arrangement will be another adventure that will just take minor adjustments in every day living. It won't be a piece of cake to adjust, but because I enjoy the adventure of learning new things and habituating myself to different ways of life, learning to live in South Korea will be a wonderful part of the adventure of acclimating to a new culture.

Friday, August 13, 2010

HONEYYY I'M HOME!! (Friday the 13th! ooo la la)

(As I said before, when every entry of a person's blog starts with "sorry it's been 2 months, but here's the latest..." isn't the best blogger.)
That said, here is the update of the past 2 months haha!
So it is now Friday, August 13th and I have been home in Salt Lake City for two weeks now. I thought it would be a lot weirder being home than it really is. It isn't that bad to be back in Utah. (And why would it be, Utah is great! What was I thinking?) Although I did have like 3 wedding receptions to attend in one evening. There was also a meteor shower last night! Some friends and I went up Millcreek Canyon to watch it.
So that last time I wrote was from Dakar, Senegal (wow that seems like SO long ago!) I stayed with my friend's family just outside of Dakar. They were soo wonderful and welcoming to me. I'm pretty sure after just 2 or 3 days of being treated like a king (and that includes, as the honored guest, being pretty much being forced to eat like king for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!) Don't get me wrong the food there is delicious and I do like to eat, but after two days of eating like a king (and sometimes I would have to eat TWO kingly lunches or dinners in a day because neighbors and friends would invite me to eat, I would come home and they would expect me to eat again. Saying you have already eaten is no excuse. You say "J'ai deja mange" and they say "mange" EAT!) so after 2 days of that I was already noticing a little bit of chubbiness creeping into midsection. After 10 days chez eux (or at their home) I was so ready to be able to eat like a poor student traveler again!
Senegal was so wonderful though, one of my favorite places was a small beach village called
Toubab Dialao where we made friends with the very generous Bifals. (Bifal is the equivalent of the rasta men in Ghana but they have a different religious leader.) They taught us drumming and fed us delicious grilled fish (right from the sea) and were pretty much awesome!
After Dakar, Senegal I had to say goodbye to my travel companion and then after my "home stay" I had to say goodbye (or rather see you next time) to my newly acquired family and friends, to brave the road to Mauritania and eventually to Morocco by myself.

I took the route from Dakar to St. Louis then to Rosso to cross the border (which was terrible by the way....least favorite border in the whole wide world!!!!) where I got really really ripped off by some money changer butt-head at the border. Anyway, that aside getting to Mauritania by myself was nothing but an adventure to say the least. We had to stop at probably 10 million patrol stations to check our passports, just from the border to Nouakchott--from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou is another 10 million, then Nouadhibou through Western Sahara and Morocco another 10 million. But I guess it was for our safety to make sure we didn't hit any landmines or get kidnapped in between any of them. I shared a bushtaxi with a nice Spanish lady, old Dutch dude, and a Mauritanian tour guide (who was married to the Spanish lady who spoke great English.)
All I can say is how happy I was to be through Mauritania and into Morocco (granted there are some really nice people there, but ever since my negative experience at the border it just wasn't my favorite of places, and I was in a hurry to get to Essaouira in time for the music festival.) I had to hitch-hike to get to Dahkla which was super fun.
The truck driver man only spoke Arabic but was apparently saying how he wanted to marry me and that I would not go to Dahkla but stay and marry him haha. But alas, I did go to Dahkla to get a bus to Boujdour where I stayed until I fought my way onto a bus to Agadir, where I could finally arrive in Essaouira for the Gnaoua Music Festival. June 25th-27th 3 days of free music

As I inched my way from Ghana back to the westernized world, I saw a strong European influence in Dakar, but an overwhelming one in Morocco. It was a big slap in the face when they told me I couldn't get on the next bus it was full (buses are never full in Africa...never) and I couldn't just sit in the isle or just strap my bag on the top of the bus, but that I had to PAY for it and I couldn't have it sit with me because of LAWS....what? laws? in Africa? I said this is AFRrica!! and he was very indignant that Nooo it was like Europe. And there you have it, my first slap in the face of the white man's world with laws and regulations and price tags on everything. From that moment onward there were rules and price tags and even garbage cans was crazy to me.
After crossing the Sahara desert, taking numerous ridiculous "european" (aka flippin expensive) buses with RULES and such, I finally arrived in Essaouira for this Gnaoua (a type of traditional Moroccan music) festival that would last 3 days. I saw the house of Jimi Hendrix that is still left there from the late 60s, saw Julian Marley (son of Bob Marley), drank moroccan mint tea too

many times, hung out in spice shops, made amazing moroccan (and other) friends, ate amazing food (couscous, bread, tajine, fruit, fresh squeezed juice...pastries! etc) and chilled on the beach. All in all it was amazing. I could never live there, but I definitely have to go back. I only got to see a tiny bit of Dahkla, Boujdour, I saw a ton of Essaouria--I pretty much lived there, a little bit of Marrakech, stayed in a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains, saw reggae legends and met tons of awesome people, ate amazing food, and had great times.

Marrakech--->London--->Scotland--->Ireland--->Liverpool--->London...--->Salt Lake City!

From Marrakech I flew to London to meet up with a close friend that I made in St. Etienne when I was in France for fall semester. From London we went to Edinburgh (the castle and Arthur's seat as well as an amazing picnic in the hills), Aberdeen (jam sessions are awesome!), Stonehaven (amazinnng castle there!), and Inverness (where we visited the Loch Ness and heard awesome traditional music) in Scotland, before going to Dublin Ireland. There we met up with good friends (again) from St. Etienne, then went to Belfast in Northern Ireland. We visited Armaugh and saw an amazing "Earth from the Air" exhibit by Yann Arthus-Bertrand ( ) and learned about St. Patrick and all of that stuff. We saw the Giant's Causeway and saw the northern coast. Headed back to England to visit another closer friend from St. Etienne.

Visited The Cavern where the Beatles first got big and just hung out with my friend. Headed back to London and did all of that stuff
(London bridge, the London eye, Westminster evensong, Big Ben, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Tower Bridge, the Globe theater, Portobello Market, Trafalgar square.....allllll that jazz) before saying "see you next time" to my dear dear friends, and finally heading back to good ol' Salt Lake City, Utah!

So at the end of this I say that traveling is like a drug, it is so addictive! I have learned so much in just a year and a few months of traveling and studying abroad than I have in all my years of university so far. I've learned a lot about myself and especially about the world around me. I miss learning so many languages--french, Twi (Ghana), Ewe (Ghana Togo and a little bit in Benin), Bambara (Burkina, Mali), Wolof (Senegal), and Arabic (Morocco) and seeing so many different cultures and beautiful people!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

West African adventures (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, and Morocco)

You can tell a really bad blogger when every entry starts with "Sorry I suck at blogging, but here's the update from the last 2 months."
So now it is 15th of June. I've been travelling since the end of the semester in Ghana "on the way home." Getting everything together before leaving Ghana was of course a mess and I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to balance studying for my last exams, getting gifts and souvenirs, sending off packages and rushed goodbyes.
I've been travelling for 27 days now, I am currently in Dakar, Senegal.
I left Accra, Ghana May 19th headed northward to Burkina Faso where I met my two friends and travel companions. There we saw the beautiful rock formations in the southeastern area near Banfora.;

from there we moved through Ougadougou to Mali to see Dogon country, where there are villages along cliffs in the Sahel.

We then went to Timbuktu and rode camels in the desert and slept in the desert in the Touareg campment. We couchsurfed with wonderful friends, Timbuktu natives that showed us all around and were so hospital and helpful.
From Timbuktu we spent time in the bustling captial of Bamako to recharge our batteries (between 30 hours bus rides) before coming to Dakar, Senegal. We explored la Petite Cote (or little coast) where we stayed in a small beach village, swimming with rasta men, of Toubab Dialao, before spending time in the glitzy capital Dakar.
I am now staying with a host family (one of my senegalese friends) just outside of Dakar. They are soo nice and feed me TOO well and too much. mange mange! (eat! eat!) they tell me.
I've learned some Wolof, the language here in Senegal and it is fun to surprise people with my random vocabulary words :)
the typical greeting asalaam alikoum? yagui si diam? nangadef? mangifi.
did you sleep well? i want water please. i'll see you later. fun things like that!
i'll be heading out on the 19th or 20th to go to Mauritania and Morocco.
From there I will try to keep you posted on my U.K. and Ireland trip!
(I fly from Morocco to London, then from there to York, Edinburg, Aberdeenshire, Iverness, maybe the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness etc before flying to Dublin and exploring Ireland. head back to England through Liverpool to visit a dear dear friend, then to London for my flight back to Utah!!)
I'll see you this fall semester back on campus! :D
here is the link for my pictures so far

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the West African Breezes

Hey everyone!
Time goes by so quickly, but as the same time soo slowly. The days, weeks and months roll by at a running pace but the minutes and moments of each day stroll along, taking their time, making sure not to rush (for it is far too hot here in Ghana to rush anywhere).
My time seems to get shorter and shorter as I realize how many months have already flew by. Final exams will be coming before I know it and in lieu of travelling and volunteering every chance I get, I might actually have to do some hardcore studying. (I know, who actually studies at school right?) But 2 weekends ago I visited Togo. It was SO nice to speak French again. Life was getting so boring speaking English everyday. It was definitely an adventure being everyone's interpreter, though a bit exhausting at times I must admit. (I can only explain so many times that my friend is "married" and isn't interested in marrying her persistant african suitors and that her "husband" in the US wouldn't like it too much if she married one of them haha)
Anytime I don't have class (and even sometimes when I do) I've been going to teach in a village about 10 minutes away from campus called Kisseman. One of the ISEP exchange students from last semester that stayed for this semester started an outreach program/make-shift school for the children in the village who do not go to school either because their parents can't pay their school fees to send them to school or their parents are not their or otherwise. We basically meet on someone's back porch and use donated materials and student volunteers to teach them. The children are of all ages and learning levels from 2-13 (which obviously makes it difficult to teach them all at the same time on a back porch with volunteer teachers...) but it is so nice to help them. We try to have a nice variety in subject matter...a lil science, a lil reading, math, art and music. But most of the time we just try and keep them under control long enough to teach them something haha.

here is the link of my latest photo updates

and here are all of my pictures before coming to Ghana

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ahhh the Volta Region

I must apologize for my lack of blogging skills, and also for the lack of internet in Ghana.
Things here are just slow paced, including any sort of internet connection that one would want to benefit from to connect to the outside world :)
It is nice though to have things slow down a little bit.
It is funny though because this weekend, a friend (my old roomie, before we both switched so that we could have Ghanaain roommates) and I traveled to the Volta Region this weekend where we climbed the highest mountain in West Africa Mount Afedzeto. And although Ghanaians like to really slowly while going to class or any other destination, when they happen to be climbing up a very steep mountain they pretty much just run up it. And by the way, the trails in the U.S. meander and zig zag a little bit to get to the eventual destination at the top, but not in Ghana, no no. Its just straight up, "get 'er done" style right up the mountain....THE WHOLE TIME. Haha
That same day, in the afternoon, we climbed what was I swear the second tallest mountain in West Africa, to get to the upper Wli Falls, the highest waterfall in West Africa. Both of which were SO worth the climb. We pretty much had a magestic waterfall all to ourselves. And it sounds cheesy, but it really was magical!
(me on top of the mountain...very sweaty)
We were going to go to Togo but realized it would be better to plan more in advance and get our visas., switch our money etc. before leaving, so I will need to go either next weekend (which is Independance Day for Ghana) or the next weekend to renew my visa.
We started in Keta where we stayed the night right next to the beach, with a great view of the full moon on the ocean. I really love just putting my feet in the sand and having the waves wash over them, and then digging my feet even deeper into the sand the next time the wave comes. We sat and talked in a little fishing boat/canoe that was just on the sand next to the water for awhile and ate dinner before leaving at 5:30 in the morning to head up on our waterfall chasing adventure. Unfortunately when we got there, because it is the dry season, that particular waterfall had dried up and is only active during the rainy season, but we went on a little hike in the rain forest anyway (and by little hike of course I mean super steep crazy trail that had to have a rope to hold on to because it is too steep to walk normally..)
We then moved on to Hohoe where we stayed with a very kind reverend and his family and headed off to climb mountains and search for waterfalls. It was quite the enchanting weekend full of tender mercies and sweet adventures. We ate tons of bread and groundnut paste (peanut butter with no sugar..) and we found some honey in the first town we went to, so that was nice to mix it up a lil'.
On the way home we went to the mall and splurged on some cheese and french bread for dinner. (which was delicious!)

(a few weekends before this I went to the Volta region but didn't go to Keta (the beach place), the Mountain or the Upper Falls, so I had to come back. But the first time I saw other awesome things too. I stayed with my friend in his family's village and got to go his cousin's wedding and meet his family, see how village life is like etc. I fed the monkeys bananas at the monkey sanctuary and swam in the Volta river, rode on a motorcycle up to the waterfalls..pretty much took lots of tro-tro rides :D but it was fun)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

settling in in Ghana..

I am meeting so many wonderful people. All of my students are so so so sweet, I'm working at this school..well it isn't really a school, we meet on someone's porch and we have a whiteboard, a few notebooks and pencils, and some math flashcards...and so many beautiful children! Normally in Africa children have to pay their school fees to go to school, but the thing is that these kids can't even afford that (for uniforms, paying for teachers etc.) so we volunteer to teach them and the children just come on their own. Sometime it is very chaotic because there isn't very much structure because none of us have really ever been teachers before but we're trying to help them at least get the basics down of the alphabet, how to read, and at least basic math. We have the building materials for a real school building, but we're struggling to find a plot where we can build it. I'll keep you posted!
I am also going to the Liberian refugee camp on Fridays to volunteer there with a womens empowerment NGO that has a sustainable system scholarship program, where the women make beautiful purses and sell them. So instead of depending on donations all of the time, the invest what they have to make things to pay for their own scholarship program.
I don't have classes on mondays or fridays so I go to volunteer on mondays at the "school" in a village 10 minutes away from campus by tro-tro (the exciting means of "public transportion" here in Ghana). They basically just put as many people as possible in these van type things and you pay 30, 40, or 50 peswas (like cents) depending on how far away your destination is. Getting to the refugee camp by tro tro truly is an adventure haha.

Other than that, classes are a bit different here. They are mostly just lectures where the lecturer talks at you and you write down what they say. The entire grade is based on one exam at the end of the semester. (Which I'm a little scared about...) But I'm loving my classes, they are mostly about geography and development. Population and development, Rural development experiences, Tourism in the developing world, Industrialization in the developing world, Sustainable agricultural land use systens in the developing world. I'm excited to learn all about the African perspective on these issues and how they differ from our western perspective.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ghana, Africa!

So Ghana is an awesome place. The people here are so kind and friendly. The weather is HOT hot HOT (but I like it a lot) (and I kind of rhymed on purpose there...).
The food is DELICIOUS. Lots of rice and fish or chicken, mangoes, bananas, plantains. Just wonderful!
I'm making lots of fun friends from all over the U.S. and little by little I'm making more Ghanaian friends.
I will have a Ghanaian roommate. I'm a little nervous, but really excited to meet her and to live with her.
In the morning where we live there are little colorful lizards running around. The showers are so cold, but it's not like I would a hot shower either.
We've been to the local markets where we try to barter for beautiful African cloth and jewelry (and so many other cool hand made crafts).

Today walking past the Night Market to go to orientation I stopped to talk to a tiny little girl who was with her brother and sister. She held my hand and looked at me with her huge brown eyes and said "Icecream" and I was so sad because I had no money with me. I told her we could get some next time, but her cute little hands and little brown eyes just wouldn't let me go. So I borrowed a cédi (like a dollar) from my friend and bought them an icecream. The lady at the desk look at my and said in her fun accent "Don't be givin them yo' money." I guess I can be a sucker for those little brown eyes every once in a while. I didn't learn her name unfortunately, but I hope I see her again soon. :D

New Years January 1st= best birthday every!

I spent my birthday, and the New Year in the southern part of France. I already told you guys about the stay with the bee keeper family on their farm. So for the New Year's weekend, me and Mari (an awesome Aggie also on exchange in France) went to Nice, Marseille, and Monaco to celebrate. We met up with a group of other young adults in Marseille for a "bal" or dance (as we would call it) that went until at least 4 in the morning. There was a theme "Les détails qui tue" or the details that kill. So we had to think of a detail that would "make" the outfit. I wore my awesome roller skates that I found in a thrift shop in France for 3 euros. I won a prize for my sweet detail that killed my feet by the end of the night.
On the way there (and back) to Marseille, we stopped in Nice to look at the beautiful beaches and monuments. The people there are very friendly, as is apparently the tendancy for the people of the south of France to be more warm and friendly.
After Nice we
went to Monaco, famous for its casino's in the French Riviera. Mari had the goal to run across an entire country, so I watched our enourmous backpack while she accomplished her way cool goal of running across Monaco.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Noel. December 25, 2009

Bonjour tout le monde!
Hey everyone, its Brooke from France wishing you all a Merry Christmas (or "Happy Holidays") and sending you my love and best wishes for the new year! Love you all!
Here is just a lil' update. I'm leaving the 10th of January for my semester in Ghana where I will be until the end of June beginning of July where I will study geography and work in an orphanage. I have had a wonderful semester in France and I've been able to meet lots of friends from all over, and of course, learn a lil bit of french. I made this video to send to my family for Christmas and you can "meet" my friends from all over and hear them wish you a Merry Christmas for me in their native languages. Its I tried to put it on youtube so I hope it works...(sorry if it sucks..) I've try to post it like 10 million times but I had to cut it all up so it isn't that great, but oh well. I've been having some technical difficulties ;)
Anyway I hope you are all doing well tell me how things are going with you guys too!
Much love!
Brooke :D
here is the youtube link if that doesn't work

Thanksgiving! November 26, 2009

So like I was telling you, all of the Americans decided to do Thanksgiving all together and invite all of our friends that are here from other countries; we made the traditional turkey mashed potatoes etc meal and everyone brought a dish from their country. It turned out so well! All of our french friends brought french things, our finnish, korean, japanese, canadian, african and other friends came too. It was really so great. Of course it was a little stressful throwing everything together and having to cook and have class etc, but Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving with out a little bit of craziness here and there. I helped with pumpkin and apple pies I made the salad and helped with rolls. So finally it all worked out and we had a great thanksgiving. We all sorts of pies and cakes and even crepes, sweet potatoes/yams, green beans, ...the works! It was a really great thanksgiving even if I was far away from home, it was a really cool cultural experience that we shared all together through with the Pilgrims and the Indians :)

November 16, 2009

Me and my friends are organizing a Thanksgiving dinner here in France with all of the Americans and we are inviting all of our Korean, French, African, Finnish etc friends to come and bring something from their countries (so we can have a nice little cultural exchange...)
I am just getting to the point in school though when you realize how close the exams are, but at the same time that I only have so much time left with my friends that I have made here before I leave for Ghana. The time is just going really fast. I have an address but I will be moving out the 20th or 21st of December.

October 6, 2009

For fall break I'm going to Sweden and I'm staying with my friend from Annecy. She lives in Stockholm so she is going to show us around and we will probably go to Oslo Norway for a day or something. So I am in class with all of the french people and it is a little bit difficult sometimes but by the end of the semester I should be a lot better at french (obviously) but I gets kind of overwhelming with all of the work. So there is "faire du sport" and you pay 20 euros and you can do all of the sports you want to. like aikido tai kwon do, karate, swimming, handball, volleyball, rockclimbing lots and lots and lots there is too much to choose from. but anyway so i spend lots of time at school and then I try to faire du sport everyday that I can and then leave time to just hang out and make friends with the frenchies who live in my dorm.
so that is about all for now but i LOVE LOVE LOVE Utah State..and France, they're wonderful!!!!!!!

September 9th, 2009

So yes I moved from Annecy to St. Etienne and I started my first week of school. I went to Paris and Lille this weekend (in the north of France to visit some friends) I was in Paris Thursday night and Friday and Lille Friday night and Saturday-Sunday. and it is Sunday night and after 4 hrs on the train I'm back in St. Etienne and not exactly ready for school tomorrow but its ok :)
I'm liking the city alot more now because most of the stressful parts of moving in to a new place are over and I have started making some friends and getting into the rhythm of things. I keep going on weekend adventures to Geneva or Paris but that was more just for the "last hurrah"s of summer before I have serious school stuff to do. so we'll see more in the next weeks what normal life and weekends etc will be like.

But as for me luckily I don't have roommmates but it is just me in a really small room and I have my own bathroom and everyone on the floor shares the kitchen (and it can be kind of annoying sometimes when everyone needs the stove or the oven etc...but its not that bad). France has a grand variety of can smell delicious like pain au chocolate and fresh baguettes when you pass le boulangerie (the bakery) or it can smell like pee and dog poop (because french people are crazy about their dogs but they just poop on the street and it is really gross haha...sorry for the yucky image but France isn't always glorious eiffel tower wine and cheese and berets haha). But the best thing is just being on this learning adventure. Everyday I learn new words and I meet new people (and not all french people are nice and not all french people are mean...) but the thing is just that this experience is something is uniquely mine and that it is something that I am making my own. So the thing that has made it the hardest and the best is kind of the same thing, but it is the fact that it is just me in this country trying to learn as much as I can is the best and the hardest at the same time, it is just that if I take this opportunity to make it my own, something that I never had and something that no on else can have (the exact same experience that is).

August 30th New City Saint Etienne!

Tomorrow I move to my new city I'm nervous and excited at the same time! I can't believe summer is already over. well practically over. Oh man it is sad but its always like that. Summer has flown by and tomorrow I'm moving in and hopefully I can make new friends and all that. It is nice to hear your update. My new apartment. (9 square meters.....not so big, but if works) :)