Next Stop Peru

My next trip is Peru! I booked my tickets yesterday and will be there for 15 days in August. I have been doing a lot of research. I did not want to take the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu because it is alot more crowded, expensive, and requires a permit you have to apply for 4 months in advance. In contrast, the Salkantay trail leads you to Macchu Piccu through beautiful landscapes and you can even do it unguided. It is a 5 day trek and i am STOKED. I am going with a group of four. Morgan is my friend that I met in the airport in Ecuador and traveled the country with. She also did a cross country road trip with me to Zion National Park and now she is coming to Peru with me. Just a reminder that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet. My sister and friend Zach will also be going on the trip.

We will visit Rainbow Mountain, which is a day trip from Cusco and is basically just a colorful mountain becuase of the sediments.  There is also an oasis town called Huacachina that I plan to go to. It is not very famous but offers sandboarding. Lima will definately be on the list too since it is the capital of the country and where we are flying in and out of. We got round trip tickets for only 558 bucks! This is becuase I use SkyScanner and Skiplagged, amaazing websites I would definately advise for the budget traveller.

Christmas Break in Ecuador

I spent almost all of my Christmas break in Ecuador. I have family there since that is where my mom is originally from, We usually go every three or four years, and stay mainly near the capital city of Quito.  It was an awesome trip! I went to the Amazon for a few days in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. It was nice to be away from civilization. I saw a couple of sloths and quite alot of Monkeys. One of my favorite memories from the Amazon was watching the sunset over the dried up lagoon bed while lots of bats fluttered around. We went in search for an Anaconda for a couple of days too. We found lots of tracks but never actually found the guy. We also made yuca bread from scratch with a native indian. We pulled it straight out of the ground (yuca is similar to a potato). We then grinded it and squeezed out all of the water. Then we threw the flour onto a pan over a wood fire. That was all that it needed! No yeast, or salt. It was pretty good.

After the Amazon we spent some time with the family during the holidays. In Ecuador you eat Christmas dinner at midnight of Christmas Eve. There is a big emphasis on family in Ecuador, which is something I like. After two weeks into the trip, I had a couple of friends fly in and we went around different parts of the country just sort of doing whatever seemed fun. We went to a town called Banos(translated as showers or baths, not bathroom) where we got to hike, raft, and go canyoning. We also went to the coast where we got major sunburns becuase Ecuador is on the Equator. We went to a ‘Mitad del Mundo’ museum which talks about things like the Coriolis effect and showed a demonstration with a tub of water draining. I can tell you firsthand, that the Coriolis effect is real. I also balanced a raw egg on a nail on the equator.

Overall, Ecuador is a great place for beginner travellers- it is beautiful and has alot to offer.

Invasian- Intl Event

I have never really known much about the Asian community until I started living with 3 Asian roommates. There are a lot of foods I had never known existed that I see them cooking. There were some things I learned about my roommates that seemed stereotypical, and others that broke my conceived notions about Asian culture. One day my roommates friend was telling me about some of the Asian stereotypes that she wanted others to know were not true. She invited me to an event called Invasian that had a high focus on disproving the stereotype that Asians don’t excel in the fine arts. Before she mentioned it I didn’t even know that was a stereotype. Invasian was a very fun and entertaining event. There were several dances performed and they had a special guest on the show that was big in the Asian Community. While I didn’t learn much about traditional Asian culture at all, nor was there Asian food at the event, I was able to see the how strong the Asian student community was. Everyone was cheering wildly when the pop dances were performed. They even had a mini competition to see who could flip a water bottle and land it upright the most times in a certain amount of time. Overall, Invasian was a fun experience and the girl dancers definitely outdid the guy dancers.

Womens Minority Conference

I attended the Womens Minority Conference this year a few weeks ago. There were a few presentations that discussed black culture in the US and how girls perceived the culture at OU and how they reacted based on their feelings. There was also a presentation I listened to put on by an Iranian girl who wanted to speak about stereotypes of Iranian women. I was hoping to learn a lot more about the Iranian culture and was almost a little disappointed when the main point of discussion was the hijab, mainly because I wanted to learn new things about the culture that I had never heard of before. The hijab discussion mentioned how not all women wanted to wear the hijab and she pointed out different government regulations on it. It also mentioned that some women do want to wear the hijab and do not want other women to see them as oppressed, because they wear it because they want to. Personally, I have an automatic response to respect a woman more when I see her wearing a hijab because I tend to think it shows they are not abandoning their culture and/or not afraid to show a symbol of their belief. However, this does not at all mean I do not respect middle Eastern women who do not wear the hijab. While I consider myself a very cultured person, I recognize that I do not know much about Middle Eastern Cultures compared to others and would like to learn more.

International Org and Event- SWB

Sooners without Borders is a group on campus focused on bringing awareness about people in third world countries mostly and focused on sustainability. I have gone to various meetings for Sooners without Borders throughout the year but was unfortunately not able to go on the service trip to the Dominican Republic over the summer. I was however able to attend the pop bottle build during green week this year. A pop bottle build is basically where you pour sand into a bottle (like a plastic coke bottle) and use the bottles to build a house instead of bricks. Cement is placed around the bottles to keep the form of the structure and the bottles are a cheaper alternative to using other construction materials. It recycles the water bottle waste into something useful. The purpose behind Sooners Without Borders doing a pop bottle build was not only to raise awareness about how we can be more environmentally sustainable when building a house, but it was to teach people about how people in Uganda were making some of their houses. Many people couldn’t afford ‘proper’ construction materials so they came up with a creative and cheaper way to build something. Another activity I enjoyed doing for green week with Sooners without Borders was writing a bunch of water fun facts on empty milk jugs that were later placed around campus. The fun facts were about how other people had to deal with water issues in other countries. I learned a lot about statistics associated with water and it was a good reminder not to take the amenities in the US for granted since things like clean, drinking water are not available to thousands of people.

The Amazon

Since I am traveling to Ecuador over Christmas break I thought it appropriate to do some research over the Amazon. In a little over a week I will be flying into Quito, Ecuador,  and hopping on a domestic flight to Lago Agrios the next day. Several tours to part of the Amazon depart from this city to different national parks in the Amazon region. I will be going on a 4 day tour to Cuyabeno Wildflife Reserve and am super excited!

The Amazon basin covers about 2.9 million square feet and nearly 40 percent of South  America, covering parts of Ecuador, Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Peru, Suriname, and Columbia. Brazil contains most of it, nearly 60%. The Amazon basin is the largest rainforest in the world and covers most of the basin; if it were a country it would be the 9th biggest. It produces over 20% of the worlds oxygen. There are roughly 3000 edible fruits in the rainforest and there are about 6 -9 million natives. The toucan is the loudest animal in the rainforest and can be heard up to half a mile away. The Amazon river is about 4000 miles long and is home to Anacondas, the largest species of snake in the world. It can reach 30 feet and wiegh almost 550 pounds. They dont attack with fangs, rather they are constrictors that squeeze their victims to death.

One of the days of our tour to the Amazon we are going to go Caiman watching. Caimans are relatives to alligators and crocodiles and can reach between 5 and 20 feet long. Most Caiman species are endangered and are also nocturnal. They are pretty fast swimmers, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph. Their lifespan is about 30 – 40 years in the wild. The temperature of the nest determines the gender of the caiman, low temperatures general result in a female being hatched.

 

 

Traveling to Antarctica

Antarctica has never  been on the top of my list to travel to but I’ve always wanted to say I’ve been to all seven continents so someday I bet I’ll end up visiting after I’ve seen the more appealing places. Even though it seems like it would be just a freezing cold, vast expanse of snow and ice, it would still be an experience and something to learn from. I want my life to be full of experiences, and I recognize that not all of them should be good because then my perception of the world would be skewed if I only subjected myself to the pleasant and comfortable things of life. And going through bad times makes the good ones just that much better.

This year roughly 35,000 visitors went to Antarctica, there are several ways to go about traveling there. You need a permit and have to follow the Antarctic Conservation Act. You can become a villager at one of the research station, either as a scientist or a cook, plumber, etc. There are three bases on the continent operated by the National Science Foundation. The most common way to get there is via boat on a tour. The primary location to disembark from is Ushuaia in Argentina. It does require going through the Drake Passage, where the waters are famous for being dangerous and choppy.The cost of the tour is upwards of 3000 dollars and can even cost over tens of thousands of dollars. A much less feasible option for getting to Antarctica is flying. Only private operators fly, usually from South Africa or Chile. A ticket would cost no less than 20,000 dollars though.

Fun facts: There is an Antarctic  marathon on King Georges Island in subzero temperature conditions. There is a post office on a British Base in Port Lockery. The penguins are not scared of people. There are roughly 4000 people that live in Antarctica in the summer and 1000 that live there through the winter. There is a hot spring in Antarctica on Deception Island.

Angolan Culture Night

Friday night I attended this years Angolan Culture Night. It was held at the Caf, one of my favorite places on Earth. I was invited by my Angolan friend Tony, whom I had met freshmen year. I have about 5 or 6 Angolan friends, they are very friendly. It was a cool event. Many of the Angolan students sang the national anthem and other cultural songs . The English lyrics were played on the TVs so people could follow along. In Angola the official and widely spoken language is Portuguese. There was a dance performance as well. There was samples of traditional food. I tried feijoada, which is similar to what they had at the Brazilian Culture Night my freshmen year. It was a mix of meat and vegetables on a bed of rice. As a desert there was this sweet rice, the name of it escapes me. People were dancing to the music while eating, some of the dances almost resembled Latino dances. The official name of the dance style is Kizombo.

Overall the event was fun and it was great to see my friends enjoying showing off their cultural heritage.

RDI Cambodia

Today I received an email about a talk that would be given by a couple of charity workers about their experiences in Cambodia. It piqued my interest since I am interested in volunteer work overseas so I decided to go. The talk was incredibly interesting and I learned a lot. The couple giving the talk started a non profit organization called Resource Development International (RDI) Cambodia. They provide clean water and educate both rural children and adults on things like sanitation and delivering babies.  The couple had sold everything they owned and moved to Cambodia after the husband had went on a week long disaster relief  trip. In Cambodia they had 4 children. They claimed that the children were one of the strongest ways of connecting with the communities and were good examples of the knowledge they were trying to spread. For example, it was easier for the villagers to listen to the volunteers  about not drinking unsafe water from ponds when they saw that the american children didn’t have swollen stomachs from worms like the rest.

There were many cultural things I learned as well from the talk, like that they eat porcupine in Cambodia and stuff various plants and mushrooms through bamboo shoots and boil them to make soup. There is open defecation in Cambodia and many girls drop out of school around the 5th grade because they don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of menstrual cycles. Apparently speaking the language of Cambodia is fairly difficult and took the couple two full years.  There are monsoons in Cambodia and periods of drout followed by floods. Poverty is rampant and parents do not tell their kids that they love them, nor are kids asked what they want to be when they grow up.

The talk was very inspirational as well. It is good to hear that volunteers overseas are able to make significant impacts by building relationships and educating the public.

Nepal

Searching for cheap places to travel to, I ran across Nepal and decided to do a little research on the country. Nepal is a country in  South Asia with a population of about 26 million and is 57 square miles. It is a landlocked country bordered by China and India. Perhaps the most famous thing from Nepal is Mount Everest. Nepal actually has 8 of the 10 tallest mountains (Nepal is home to the Himalayas).

Nepal can be separated into three major regions: the mountains, Hill, and Terai(southern lowland plains). Terai has a subtropical climate whereas the Hill country ranges from subtropical to alpine climates. The northern part of Nepal is home to the Great Himalayan Range.

Looking into the economy: Nepals GDP cam out to be about 18 billion for the year 2012, with about 36% agriculture. Nepal is making strides  to reduce poverty; the percentage of people living below the poverty line dropped from 53% in 2004 to about 25% in 2012. Nepal sees about 600,000 tourists every year. Fun fact: only about 1% of Nepals energy needs are met by electricity (mostly comes from fuel wood).

Experiences at OU and Abroad

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