Although I haven’t been to New Zealand, I hope to go one day. I have seen pictures and it looks absolutely beautiful. New Zealand is composed of two main islands. The capital Wellington is on the north island. The whole country is about the size of Colorado. The South island is about 10,000 miles smaller than the north island. There are 7 international airports and the bus system is the best way to get around if you don’t have a car. Most new zealanders, 75% live on the north island so it is about 3 times more populated. There are about 40 million sheep in New Zealand so there is a lot of lamb for food. On the North island there are geothermal oddities, as well as other cool natural features including beaches and volcanos. The South Island is more rugged and has the Southern Alps. The most popular surfing beaches are in the North island, where they are mostly traditional looking white- sand beaches. There are a ton of adventure sports in New Zealand like rafting, bungee jumping, jet boating, and zorbing. The people are said to be very nice and fun. I look forward to one day going to New Zealand! It would be great for my inner adventurer.
Another international event I went to this year was Spanish Dinner Night, organized by one of my friends from Spain. The dinner featured Paella, a big pan of rice and seafood. It was delicious! They also had bread with tomato stuff to put on it, and beans as well. We put on some Spanish music and had a great time. I had at least 4 plates. For desert there were these sopapilla time deals that looked like diabetes in a few bites. It was nice to have a meal themed from a certain country and I will probably have an Ecuadorian food night next semester.
I intend on studying abroad in Spain next year and am torn on which city to do it in. I loved Barcelona, but I think it might be too touristy to stay there for too long. I was highly considering Valencia, but they speak a form of Catalan and not true Spanish. I would like to fully immerse myself in Spanish so I may do Madrid.
The second international event I went to this semester was the Day of the Dead festival last month. There were alot of food trucks. Some of them were pricey so I hopped in line for the dollar taco truck. It was about a 45 minute wait because everyone else had the same idea. It took place in Lloyd Noble and there were rides and tables selling cultural items. Alot of the people in attendance dressed up and had face paint on. There was a stage set up for music but when I was there there really wasn’t anyone playing, it mightv’e been in between sets. The event seemed like it was well organized. I personally have had more fun at other international events like international board game nights.
Day of the Dead, or dia de los muertos, is a Mexican holiday. HASA had many student volunteers at the event.
Over the summer I took a two week trip to Peru- I absolutely loved it! There is so much more to the country than just Machhu Picchu. A group of four of us flew into Lima and got a hostel for the night for about 10 bucks. Everything there is super cheap! Our taxi driver from the airport told us about Huacachina, an oasis town about four hours away. We decided to do a tour the very next morning with the driver, We woke up at the crack of dawn and the driver picked us up and drove us there. On the way there, the taxi driver didn’t have his registration up to date and got pulled over. He just bribed the cops to get out of the ticket and we were on our way again. Huacachina was super fun – we went sandboarding and dune bugging! Sandboarding was actually alot easier than I thought it would be. We got to swim in the oasis and had some tasty food. The next night we took a night bus to Huaraz. Our bus broke down in the middle of the night. After getting it fixed on the side of the road we proceeded on our journey. However, I kid you not, it broke down another four times. What took 6 hours by car took us 10 by this bus. In Huaraz we did a super difficult hike to Laguna 69, an absolutely gorgeous glacier lake at 14,000 ft altitude. Naturally, I decided to swim in the freezing cold water. It was very very cold, but there was a Peruvian who got in with me. It also started slightly snowing/sleeting a tad when I was swimming in the glacier water. Laguna 69 was definately top 10 of the most gorgeous places I have every been!!
The next day we hiked to Pasturori Glacier. My friend and I went off the path, which apparently was a no no we found out later. We were able to come face to face with it, I could touch it if I wanted to. Walking along the sheet of ice was a unique experience, I could hear the icicles dripping and the ice creaking.
The next day we hiked to laguna Churup which had really cool colored water. Afterwards we got a shuttle back to Lima. I have never been in a crazier ride!! This driver a) seemed like he was on some type of drug because he kept sniffling and acting kinda weird and b) definately liked making his tires squeel every turn. And believe me, this was a curvy road. It was definately on on-your-toes-let’s-hope-we-don’t-die trip but we made good timing. My friend in the back actually started tearing up because of this drive.
We met up with some friends at the Lima airport and spent the night at the airport, the ground was hard and it was cold but at least we could use our backpacks as pillows. We flew from Lima to Cusco and explored Cusco the first day. We found a tour operator for the Salkantay trek and bartered ourselves a good deal. The next morning we met at the town square at 6 in the morning and watched in horror as the stray dogs attacked each other in a random fight.
We did the Salkantay trek to Machu Pichu, a 5 day trek. The first day was easy and we hiked to another lagoon that was also freaking gorgeous. We slept in subzero rated sleeping bags becuase, well it was about 0 degrees at night. But I have never seen a better night sky than the first night of the Salkantay trek. The stars were just so splendid and the sky so clear. The second day of the hike was super hard becuase of the high altitude, steep grade, and we were wearing backpacks carrying everything. We reached the top of the Salkantay Pass which was like 16,000 ft and it was snowing, we didn’t stay long for pics or anything because everyone was wet and shivering. On the way down to the next campsite my friend slipped on a rock and cut his knee, twisting his ankle in the process. When we got to him we saw people wrapping it up in sweaters and using walking poles to hold it straight. The Peruvians came back with a make shift stretcher which was some thick sticks and a sheet of corrugated aluminum. They hoisted Kyle onto it and it took 6 people to carry him down the slope. But Kyle was too heavy so they had to find a horse because it would have taken forever to get him to the campsite in the stretcher. The nearest medic was four hours by horse and another two by van. I had to walk briskly following the horse, Kyle, and the guide to the next campsite. I was already exhausted after hiking up the pass for hours and missing lunch but I was needed as a translator because Kyle didn’t know Spanish. What was cool though was that after the pass the scenery turned into the jungle. So basically I hiked in the snow and in the jungle in the same day. Hours later we arrived at the medic, they stitched his knee up and gave him an ankle brace. The next day we got lunch across the street from the hospital and a little girl threw banana peels at us. We met up with our friends and I continued the hike with them. The fifth day we woke up at 3 in the morning to climb stairs to Machu Pichu. Macchu Picchu was dope, but I personally think the rest of Peru is more awesome.
We also climbed rainbow mountain, a short trip from Cusco. The mountain was striped with different colors of sediments and was also at high altitude and a hard hike. Our last day we spent in Lima, my friend and I learned how to surf. We got private lessons and rented gear for just $17! For some reason our surf instructor made us run around for 10 minutes in our wet suits and do exercises. Like Why. I thought there was some purpose to making us work out in a freaking wet suit but I really don’t think there was. Other than that surfing was cool and alot easier than I thought it would be! The surf instructors invited us to go out in Lima that night so we went. Since it was a Monday night it really wasn’t that great and my friend Morgan and I ended up running away from them. Like physically sprinting away for not really any reason, they weren’t creepy or anything. After running away we were lost in Lima at like 1 in the morning and found a police officer on a bike who ended up escorting us back to the hostel. I stayed up talking to the hostel receptionist till 3 in the morning when we had to leave for the airport. And then we flew back to the states.
Overall, Peru was hands down one of my favorite trips! It was gorgeous, had plenty to do, cheap, and just a really cool place. I would recommend IMG_1219 to anyone to go, (and not just for Machu Pichu).
This year I went to the OU Cousins matching party. I had an OU Cousin freshman year from Bolivia named Wara and was hoping I’d be able to get another one this semester. At the matching party everyone conversed with strangers, making new friends. I talked to some Germans for a while and had some popcorn. The event had a great turnout, which also came with a downside. There were many more Americans than international students, so not all of the Americans were able to get an OU Cousin. There were a few ice breakers, such as going around and signing squares for unique attributes. I didn’t meet my OU cousin at the matching party, but was later emailed with one. I tried to contact her but never heard back. Next semester there will be a new round of matching and I hope to get one that I can hang out with. The term OU Cousin is however, just a formality. I can spend time with international students outside of school programs like I did this previous weekend. I always like meeting internationals so when I come across one I always ask them about where they are from.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.