Lebanon Valley College Study Abroad

Music: Universal Yet Unfamiliar

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Perugia, Italy is a culturally rich utopia. I spotted this street performer while walking around the shops in the main Piazza and could not help but be intrigued. After listening to his beautiful music on this hammered dulcimer, I threw a Euro in his basket and walked off to reflect on what I had just seen. I reflected on the incredible reality of where I was and how the contrasts in my surroundings reminded me of how strikingly different this country is to my homeland. Although this culture shock can be grueling and frustrating at times, I have learned to appreciate it through an open and wondrous mind.

Daydream No. 19

I woke up with my shoes on, hoodie hanging limply over my face. My feet were hanging off of the edge of my bed, but this wasn’t anything new. The University had, of course, spared every expense when it came to beds and their size. Pushing my hood out of my face, I started to kick off my shoes before noticing the wedge of orange sunlight that had made its way past my curtains, coming to rest accusingly on a pile of unfolded laundry. I didn’t need to find a clock to know that I was running out of time. The sun set earlier every day, but dinner was likely almost over.

The dining hall was deserted. Only a few pockets of resistance kept the staff from having a bit of peace and quiet. Still, they were more than happy to ladle me a steaming plate of what they assured me was beef stroganoff.

New Zealand food is often severely lacking in primary colors.

New Zealand food is often severely lacking in primary colors.

I didn’t see anybody that I knew, but that was okay. More time to take stock of what needed to happen.

As usual, weekend plans of the past, present, and future came first. The nearby tourist trap of Rotorua had seen plenty of American incursions lately, with our group zorbing on two occasions. As entertaining as it is to discover exciting new ways to get injured inside a soft plastic ball, we had moved on to other attractions in the town.

Zorbing sounds a lot like my trips to the beach: screaming, splashing, and then silence.

Zorbing sounds a lot like my trips to the beach: screaming, splashing, and then silence.

Hoping to see the sorts of sights that cannot be found in America, we journeyed to see a Redwood forest and a geyser. The geyser, however, erupts once every half hour, so it’s really completely different. Located in Te Puia geothermal park, a haze hangs over the area, bringing with it that charming “Rotorua smell” of sulfur and camera-toting tourists. So, in the spirit of promoting travel, I devised a quick review of the park to all of you globetrotters out there*.

*playing basketball is not essential to enjoy Te Puia.

*playing basketball is not essential to enjoy Te Puia.

Downsides: Jumping in the mud pools and asking an attendant for a therapeutic massage is frowned upon.

Upsides: Every rock is a heated seat.

The park also includes a Maori carving school; and the fruits of the craftsmen’s labor can be see scattered around the park’s trails. If you’re in Te Puia and feel like you’re being watched, it’s probably one of these statues. If you hear footsteps, run. If you suddenly experience a feeling of existential dread followed by bouts of extended weeping, you should probably get professional help. Really, I can’t help you there. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of these installations is, so I can only guess that they comes alive at opportune moments to abduct visitors that vandalize or double park.

Meanwhile, in the future, over my steaming pile of grey goo, I considered the redwood forest. Several days in the past, we had hiked through this primordial collection of trees. The forest was lofty and sparse, lacking a lot of the ground level vegetation common elsewhere. The shade of the trees had likely accounted for that, only allowing several lucky sunbeams to drift along the forest floor.

Downsides: Not enough branches to make a treetop village of adorable bear-people.

Upsides: Easy to figure out what kinds of trees you’re seeing, assuming you know the definitions of “red” and “wood.”

Unfortunately, the beef stroganoff had not outlasted the time it took for me to mentally catch up with myself. My time was spent planning for the weekend, in which I could come alive and forget about the whole nasty “learning experience” business. Sleeping became my hobby. It wasn’t particularly destructive to my experiences, at least up until that point. Fall, or “Autumn” as the New Zealanders insisted on calling it, had arrived in full force, bringing rain that led to skipped classes and afternoons spent with a robe and a book.

Because reading a Kindle naked in the dark is less socially acceptable.

Because reading a Kindle naked in the dark is less socially acceptable.

Upon waking up, I’d go through the motions that I described; taking stock of how clothed I was, figuring out how much of the day I’d missed, and looking out the window, where the trees were starting to surrender their leaves, clinging to the few that meant a lot to them. Sometimes, I’d see College Hall’s resident cat hanging around under the dining hall awning, looking a bit disgruntled about the rain and his inability to open the automatic doors. In more ways than one, my stay in New Zealand was winding down.

A new home away from home!

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Hello everyone,

 

WOW! I cannot explain for exciting this experience has been for me for the last three days! On Monday we had a tour of center city, called Vrijthof. This is where the river is that has many boats traveling to and from different locations around other countries. During the tour we were also introduced to the train station, restaurants, student life, and observed a carnival that was occurring this week. During the evening we returned back to Vrijthof for dinner and to explore. Most of the shops close around 6 pm so we did not get a chance to shop yet, but we did have interaction with the locals, had dinner, and rode one ride at the carnival. Most of the locals here are very nice! So it is very nice interacting with them. We had dinner at Catanaba, an Italian restaurant. I had vegetarian lasagna that was delicious! The food here is very fresh and I think it actually tastes better and has more flavor then in the states. However, while eating out our server took a very long time to take away our dishes and give us our check. This is typical. We are usually in a rush for time, so it was nice to relax and not be rushed. Next, we went to Pinky’s which is a waffle and gelato shop! I had mango gelato that very refreshing! We decided to venture off to the carnival and experience an European rollercoaster. The ride we went on reminded me of the Claw at Hershey Park. It was probably the best 3 Euro I ever spent so far!

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The next day we had a history tour of the city. I learned so much from the infrastructure to wealth of the city. I did not realize how valuable limestone is here that costs around 500 Euro per cubic centimeter. Another interesting fact that I learned was that each piece of a window square used to taxed. Last, I learned how the city was built up from it’s own history. Any hill that was created either was created on top of a cemetery or other structures since existence. Each middle path in the cobblestone was designed for horses and now bikes. Last, each corner was built for protection and for the military participants to catch their breath from running.

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My next adventure was to an American War cemetery. This adventure was extremely touching. This cemetery honors those who fought from 1944 to 1945. There is a wall in honor of those whose bodies have not been found. If they have been found they are honored with marker by their name. Each person who has been identified are honored through a burrier sight.

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My last adventure on Tuesday was to the city of Jezuitenberg to tour the caves. The caves are made from limestone and the bottom floors are made from limestone and remains from sea creatures. Many students would come every Wednesday, due to the cleaning staff cleaning the schools. These students were not artists and many of these sculptures were made within a couple days up to a couple of weeks. The pictures below resembles Romeo and Juliet, Egyptians, and Cinderella. The last picture is artwork that resembles the landing on the moon!

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Today was my first day of class! This class is an intercultural communication course. The professor is from Belgium and is very nice! I think I will learn a lot from her and she will challenge us to think from different perspectives as well as become aware of other cultures and norms. Our weekend starts tomorrow! We are in the process of planning to see the tulips, go on a canal tour, and explore Amsterdam! Needless to say I am enjoying my time in the Netherlands!

 

Thank you for reading,

 

Corby Myers

 

 

 

 

My 24-Hour Finding of the European Culture

After being in Maastricht for more than 24 hours, I have learned a lot about the European culture. For some of this it would be qualified as hard core stereotyping, but this is what I’ve noticed so far.

  1. You have to pay to use the restrooms in public, no matter if you are a paying customer or not. Which blows my mind!
  2. Everyone demonstrates their own fashion. Men, women and children all look nice. I really enjoy to seeing the men in nice suits with some nice shoes on. I really hope America adopts this norm soon! I idea of even getting groceries in athletic clothes is unheard of. Although the idea of working out in a whole other story
  3. America’s idea of working out is not even remotely close to Europe’s mental model. Today we just walked around the city for a tour and we were almost at 9 miles!! That is seriously so crazy, but it makes sense that Europeans don’t really “go to the gym” just biking and walking around is plenty of exercise for one day! After today, I don’t even know if I had the energy to do a 30 minute workout.
  4. Watch out for bikes. The idea of “yield to pedestrians” does not exist in Europe. You have to pay attention because they fly down the streets and will knock you over in a heartbeat. We were the typical American’s trying to cross the road, swaying back and forth like can we make it or should we wait… It will be interesting to see how running will be!
  5. Cobble streets are beautiful. The scenery around the city is beautiful. Check out my Facebook to keep up with my pictures and weekend adventures.DSCN0020
  6. The houses/apartment are really tiny but so adorable. Just from walking around, we have seen a bunch of different “houses”. They are super tiny like a total of three rooms and they are all just lined up right next to each other. But I think this goes to show the European lifestyle. They want quality not quantity. Also from walking around and just window shopping today, I noticed how the price was a little more expensive but the quality was 3 times better than US clothes. I will be looking more into how Marketing differs in the US and Europe later in the month once I do a little more shopping and learn a little bit more about European business.
  7. Finding a hostel to travel to different locations is SOOO difficult when there is a holiday. With a four day weekend coming up, we are most likely traveling to Cologne, Germany. But with a two-day holiday coming up right before the weekend, it feels like everyone in Europe is traveling.
  8. Everyone in Europe speaks at least 2, if not 3, languages. Just from being in the culture for a short amount of time, it is easy to see how Americans are not as culturally educated as other cultures. I believe it is due to the fact that Europe, is full of different cultures and countries in such a small area so Europeans are almost forced to learn different languages in order to effectively function.
  9. I’m almost certain, no one in Maastricht actually works. From walking around the city all day we got to see more of the people that live here. It seemed like everyone was out and about and no one actually had to work. Couples were hand in hand walking around or sitting down eating at a local café. There were also a decent amount of people just walking around enjoying the beautiful weather.
  10. No one is in a rush. In the states, everyone is rushing around to be somewhere. But here in Maastricht I’ve noticed people are very free spirited and have the motto of “when I get there, I will get there.”  To me this is unbelievable, I hate being late so I feel like every couple minutes I need to be checking my phone to make sure I’m on time. For example, they gave us an HOUR AND A HALF for lunch. We couldn’t believe it, it school you would get 30 minutes to eat lunch and catch up with friends. This is one aspect of the culture that I could probably get used to.

DSCN0022 Today, we took a small tour around Maastricht and tried to learn common knowledge of how to get around the city. It is soooo hard to navigate around cobble stone streets which are not based on a block system. It is almost like being in a “fun house” at a carnival. Most of the time, our group just tries to direct ourselves based on what looks familiar. We hope by next week we will be a little more familiar with our surrounding. DSCN0024 We also made a second trip to the market to get a couple more odd and end things that we don’t have. For example, plastic wrap for leftover food and a hand towel to dry off dishes. Tonight, we decided to sit down and try to book everything for this weekend. However this could be classified as a disaster. Our plan is to go see the Tulip Field’s on Thursday since it’s their last week in bloom. Then go to Cologne Germany from Friday-Sunday and then possible go to Dusseldorf, Germany Sunday before returning to school. When trying to book the tickets for the tulip fields, you needed a Dutch bank account to book train tickers online, and we found an awesome deal for a train, bus and ticket into the garden. So we need to go to the train station to get a gift card to use online. Not only did we have problems with booking a train ticket, we also cannot find a reasonable hostel for this weekend in Germany. Without a hostel booked/planned we have nowhere to stay within the city. So we are hoping to find something for the 3 nights that we will be there. On the bright side, these are the only challenges that we have ran into. So far I’ve had a blast and cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip has in store. I absolutely love the European culture and looking at the architecture around the city. DSCN0015

….And we arrived!

Hello everyone,

I have officially experienced my first full day at Maastricht! I had a long flight and the flight experienced turbulence at times. I had pasta and salad for dinner and yogurt for breakfast. I sat next to man who owned a brewery and was going to Europe in hopes to find new marketing and brewery skills.

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After landing in Brussels my one friend, Melina, and I went to Java and split a chocolate crescent and I had juice that was similar to V8 juice. Next, we went on a bus that transported us to the Guesthouse that is located in Maastricht. During my bus trip I observed gas prices were 1,60 Euros as well as specific space in each circle for bicyclists, which was unique to see. Although, it was not common to see bikes once we left the University that had a bike “house” for students to put their bikes. The next stop was at a small shopping/market place that had anything from groceries to CVS-like stores as well as restaurants. My roommate and I cooked broccoli with noodles in a white sauce; which is currently cooking. We also bought peanut butter, jelly, and bread to make sandwiches for lunch this week as well as muffins and orange juice.

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Tomorrow is orientation day and I am excited to meet other students from other universities.

Thank you for reading,

 

Corby Myers

Ladies and gentlemen please fasten your seatbelts… It is offically take off time!

Hello everyone,

Tomorrow is the day I leave for the Netherlands! I will be leaving my house around noon time to arrive at the airport. I have mixed feelings! I am excited for this new adventure, but nervous at the same time! This will be my first international flight! I am currently in the process of printing my boarding pass and packing! My flight is currently suppose to take off at 6:20 p.m. in Philadelphia.

Our plans are to have a safe arrival at the Brussels Airport in Belgium. We will arrive around 8:00 a.m. There will be a bus there in the morning to pick us up and transport us to the Guesthouse in Maastricht! The bus ride is take about  two hours long!

Once we arrive, we are to unpack and go on a tour around the University and city! The next two days we will have student orientation.  Wednesday we will have our first class with another professor that has been hired from the University of Maastricht! We are told this class will be a lecture hall, which will be a lot bigger then a typical LVC classroom. We will have class in the morning and in the afternoon until 3 p.m.

After our first class our plans are to explore the Netherlands for the next couple of days and over the weekend! I am excited to see the fields of tulips! Currently, my neighbor is there in the Netherlands and just sent me pictures of the tulips! They are absolutely beautiful! The following week our LVC class begins and our intercultural communication class resumes. We will be going to Brussels for the court case of Bosco that was mentioned in my previous post! After our class adventure we are either going to Bruges or going to Italy. Next, we will have another week of classes and we are planning to visit Germany. The following week will be our last week! So we are planning on attending the Dutch VS USA soccer game during our last Friday in the Netherlands! Needless to say we are excited!!!

 

Thank you for reading,

 

Corby Myers

 

 

 

 

Home Away From Homecoming

Maybe the Routeburn track, pass sealed with snow, would be inaccessible to us, but we were young and filled with hormones and misplaced energy, and we needed a challenge. After the initial disappointment with the track’s closure had worn off, complete with an afternoon of forlornly looking at the ground and a chorus of “aw, shucks,” we chose a worthy adversary: Mount Roy, a strapping young thing with sheep on its slopes and a stylish fringe of snow at the top.

More and more mountains are going grey early.

More and more mountains are going grey early.

So, intrepid adventurers that we were, we trekked downtown to rent a car to bring us there. Our eventual mode of transportation was a magnificent beast dubbed “El Cheapo” by the rental company. We had seen other iterations of this teal stallion rolling around town, but nevertheless, we were taken in by its litheness, occasionally functioning radio, and an adorable horn that sounded like a squeaky toy. Its license plate even said, “EWW.” Nevertheless, it transported us to the foot of Mount Roy without incident, a tiny, yappy terrier in the shadow of the various Saint Bernards of the parking lot.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody, we were unprepared even for this hike and ran out of water. I’m willing to admit that this may have been partially my fault.

To be fair, we did get free tickets to the ice bar for buying all of that soda.

To be fair, we did get free tickets to the ice bar for buying all of that soda.

Skilled survivalists that we were, we melted snow for water while continuing to subsist on the tried and true diet of peanut butter and jelly. This mountain was slightly less brutal than the last, with massive spiders and leeches traded for sheep dung and an old couple that embarrassed us by hiking really fast.

Fueled by prune juice and raw determination.

Fueled by prune juice and raw determination.

Still, we made it to the summit, scoffing at the smaller mountains around us and blanching at the much larger ones off in the distance, their peaks undoubtedly resounding with peals of laughter we could not hear. We were surrounded by a cradle of stone and ice, clouds drifting past us, or even below us. El Cheapo was a single greenish pixel far below, but it was a car, a man-made thing, not allowed to revel in this vastness that only exists at the top of the world.

Apparently, weather equipment gets a pass.

Apparently, weather equipment gets a pass.

The walk down was far more pleasant, the clouds clearing away to reveal the sunny, grassy trail beneath our feet. With sweaty clothing and broken hiking boots, we headed back to Queenstown. It was no alpine backpacking trail, but hey, it made for some good pictures.

We returned to Hamilton to find a school given new life. Returning students swapped hugs, stories, and, in some cases, spit. The break had left me drained, and two weeks of cheap fast food had made me resolve to improve my dietary habits. My room still had a shelf full of junk food, which made me sick just looking at it. I knew that I needed to get rid of all of that food if I was going to start down the path to a better lifestyle.

Naturally, I did this by eating all of it over the course of two days. Suck it, Dr. Oz.

I may have spent the last few weeks in a financial and occasionally literal free fall, but immediately after our return, LVC celebrated Dutchmen Day, a chance to forget about classes and enjoy inflatables, food, and… well, mostly just those things. Not to be deterred, we expatriates made our own Dutchmen Day. Gas station candy bars were our good food. And in place of inflatables, we went zorbing. For the uninitiated, zorbing is the practice of hurtling down a hill in a large beach ball filled with water. Naturally, the most entertaining variant on the “human pinball” formula is a track where an entire group can experience the ride simultaneously, in the same ball. In a confined space, this led to an afternoon of gurgled swearing, tangled limbs, and apologies for the unexpected and uncomfortable physical closeness.

Pictured: a plastic sphere of emotion.

Pictured: a plastic sphere of emotion.

So close but so far

I looked at my last blog post and realized that the last time I blogged was over a month ago! That month flew by, and I have done a lot since then.

To start off, I went on the organized day trip with my school to the caves of Roquefort, the Millau Viaduct, and Couvertoirade.  At the caves of Roquefort, we took a tour and learned how they make the “King of Cheeses.” At the end, we got to taste the cheese. I enjoyed it, but others claimed it smelled like feet. The Millau Viaduct is the tallest bridge in the world from top to bottom, which I did not know before going. I even looked it up afterward to make sure they weren’t fibbing.  Lastly, Couvertoirade is a fortified medieval city used by the Templars during the Crusades.  That day I also had some of the best food for lunch at a rest stop on the highway, which is not uncommon in Europe.  They have full cafeterias at highway rest stops!

Millau Viaduct

Millau Viaduct

roquefort

Roquefort cheese maturing in the caves

The next trip I took was with one of the girls in my program to The French Riviera for Easter weekend.  We stayed in Nice, but we also went to Monaco and Cannes.  All three cities were marvelous, and I felt like a movie star! This was the only trip that I wasn’t meeting another person at my final destination. My friend and I both went together, so it was nice to have a travel partner for once! The week after that trip, I had a cooking class in Montpellier with a French chef.  I was very nervous about it because we would be taught in French, and I didn’t know many cooking words in French.  It turns out that I should not have worried at all because I knew French the best out of the five people in the class.  Three of them had just arrived in France two days prior, and the other knew no French prior to his arrival a few weeks earlier.  The three who just arrived were culinary arts students.  It worked out perfectly because I didn’t know how to cook, but I could speak French, and the others knew how to cook, but couldn’t speak French. Together we figured it out.  This class was specifically for making pastries, and we got to take home our delicious desserts!

Me overlooking Nice

Me overlooking Nice

And now was the moment I had been waiting for the whole time I’ve been in France. I was about to embark on my 16 day vacation from school and my parents were coming! The first weekend of the vacation, I spent in Amsterdam with Kendra. Our main objective was to see the tulip fields and gardens, because that has been a life long dream of mine!!  They were beautiful even though the fields were not completely at their peak.  I felt like I was in heaven!

Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

From Amsterdam I flew to London, where I spent six days.  Shortly after take-off on my flight, I got an amazing view of the tulip fields, and I quietly smiled to myself.  I arrived in London on a Sunday and my parents were not going to be there until Tuesday, so I stayed with my friend.  Before my parents came, we went to Bournemouth to visit his family and girlfriend, who I am also friends with.  From Bournemouth, we went to Portsmouth for the day where we learned all about the Royal Navy history and saw lots of cool, old battle ships.  Then we returned to London on Tuesday to meet my parents! It was the moment I could hardly wait for!! When I saw them, they looked so exhausted from their flight, but we still went out to sight-see for the day.  After that, my parents were beyond exhausted, but would be better adjusted to the time change.  It was so weird seeing my parents, after not seeing them for three months. I was in disbelief that they were right next to me!

H.M.S. Warrior, one of the cool battle ships I saw in Portsmouth.

H.M.S. Warrior, one of the cool battle ships I saw in Portsmouth.

On Friday, I left London with my parents our group tour around Europe for the next 10 days.  We took a bus to Dover, where we took the ferry across the English Channel, and then we took a bus the rest of the way around Europe.  After London, the tour went to Amsterdam, Cologne, Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Lucerne, and Paris.  It was a full 10 days, and I was so exhausted that I would not stay awake on the bus each day while travelling.  The people on the tour were from all over the world, and our tour guide was from Romania. She was very nice and had a good sense of humor about her crazy country.  By the end of the tour, there were many moments when my parents were really annoying me. I knew that was going to happen after travelling around for three months by myself, but I still couldn’t help but be a little impatient at times.  Those moments did not overshadow the good moments and many memories I made with my parents! It was their first time in Europe, and they saw an incredible amount of things during their trip! It really made the time go by really fast for me too.

Lunch in Venice, while my Dad is taking the picture.

Lunch in Venice, while my Dad is taking the picture.

The happiest moment of the vacation was on Saturday April 25 when my niece was born, my parents’ first grand child.  She came earlier than expected, and my parents were a little bummed out that they weren’t there for her birth. But, they got to go home the next day and still see her in the hospital.  Now that my niece is born, I am really antsy to go home and meet her! She’s making it a little difficult to wait patiently.

I am now 23 days out from coming home.  As friends studying abroad in other programs are starting to come home, and LVC is finishing up their semester, it is getting harder for me to sit here patiently to wait my turn.  Now I have a newborn niece at home too, who I cannot wait to meet. At this point, I am going to soak up all that I still can in France, and take my finals. Before I know it, I will be home!

Wait I can only pack 50 lbs?!

Only 10 days until I board a plane and start a new adventure in my life.  Thoughts are scrambling through my head, like how am I going to fit my life for 5 weeks in one suit?! Clothes, shoes and other odds and ends are going to be fitted into a suitcase like a can of sardines. Hopefully, I won’t find it too difficult to narrow all of my belongings down to 50 lbs. But stepping back from the little details about the trip to The Netherlands, I think about how truly blessed I am to be given this opportunity for a high-impact experience.

So in preparing for this trip, I am only really worried about one thing… packing enough clothes. If you know me, it is easy to say I like fashion. The thought of only packing one suitcase that is 50 lbs of clothes for 5 weeks is frightening. I am going to have to accept that I will be wearing the same outfit more than once while abroad. Although this sounds a little shallow, it is my main concern right now. I have a feeling once I’m over there and engulfed in the culture that I won’t even think twice about wearing the same clothes multiple times.

I spent most of my free time, which isn’t very much due to finals week, showering across Pinterest and the Internet. Looking for both tourist and “hidden” places in Europe, I am memorized by the simplistic beauty of each photo.  From the colorful houses in Italy to the hilltops of Greece, I couldn’t and still cannot truly decide where I want to do all of my traveling.

My friend and teammate, Brittany Fleisher, and I are staying for an extra week to do even more traveling. It is a little intimidating thinking about staying in hostel for a week. But then I think about the all of the once in the life experience and unforgettable memories I am going to have so it eases most of my worries!

Overall I’m most worried about the difficulty of the classes. I am so excited to travel, but I’m worried that I will forget that I am also there to take two classes. So it’s easy to say that I’m most excited just to travel and see as much as possible. With only five weeks, we aren’t going to be able to see everything in Europe. So we are going to have to sit down before we leave and prioritize what we really want to see. Brittany and I talked to the study aboard office and they gave us a lot of good tips and ideas of where to travel and how to get to these different places. I would recommend this step to anyone who is planning to go aboard.

Only 10 days till I take off from Philadelphia and start my adventure aboard with only 50 lbs along with me!!

Keep an eye out for my blogs once I’m over in The beautiful Netherlands!

 

Best Laid Plans

The weather outside was frightful, but the fire was less delightful and more calming. After all, what did we have to worry about? We had pockets full of fudge, a television full of movies, and backpacks full of food. The hostel’s couches were pleasantly spongy, and I sank into one immediately after returning from our walk around Queenstown. Soon after, Anchorman was playing on the television, and we had settled down to enjoy this college kid’s classic. My phone buzzed serenely with notifications, the hostel’s free wifi breathing life into a machine that had been dormant for days before. Perhaps we hadn’t experienced the highlights of our visit, but after more than a week of cavorting through Cairns, exploring the daylights out of any nature unfortunate enough to cross our path, it was pleasant to have a moment to sit and appreciate the little joys of life.

Granted, “sit and appreciate the little joys of life” was only blocked for about an hour on our itinerary, and shortly, we returned to our task of panicking about our hiking trip (already in progress).

Stand by for Sherpa acquisition.

Stand by for Sherpa acquisition.

I rounded up my two traveling companions, bringing them to my room and drawing their attention to the orderly array of food on the floor, bags of noodles and boxes of energy bars lined up in rows that would make a drill instructor blush. These were our rations for the hike, I explained. We would be splitting the food between the three of us, to even the load. I cast my eyes over the gear of the other two LVC students. One had a green hiking backpack, small, but respectable. The other had a school backpack, with what may have been a beaten up homework assignment peeking out of the top.

It was going to be a long night.

I rummaged through my bag, tossing aside dirty clothing to reveal the occasional useful item for surviving in the icy mountains. Were my companions well equipped for the hike? (they weren’t)

Rain poncho? Blank stares.
Cooking utensils? Blank stares.
A sleeping bag? I might as well have been waving a gold plated hiking stick at them.

At least they packed water bottles.

Refills not included.

Refills not included.

We took a trip to town to buy emergency ponchos and matches and called it a night. At this point, I was secretly wondering how much food I could carry in the event that one of them caught hypothermia and had to be left behind.

The next day, we found out that the snow that would have certainly caused discomfort at best and hospitalization at worse had prevented the trip entirely. Our trip had been canceled, leaving us adrift with a small stash of food. We were so down about the whole ordeal that we decided to jump into a canyon*.

*while attached to a rope

*while attached to a rope

It wasn’t just about the thrill of jumping for me. We had chosen the Nevis Bungy jump, which, according to any number of helpful brochures, was the highest in New Zealand, with 8.5 seconds of free fall. And personally, I really wanted to find out what I would think about in that vital 8.5 seconds. Would my life flash before my eyes? Would I have an epiphany, revealing some great truth about me? What, other than a stray bird, could possibly pass through my head during that fall?

Not a lot, as it turns out. It was less about thinking and more about feeling. The wind was the first thing that I felt, howling as I passed through it at a speed normally reserved for falling rocks. I also felt some kind of fear, not for my life, but for my GoPro, clenched as tightly in my hand as possible. The further I fell, the more my cognitive function returned to me, previously suspended to allow me to make the jump in the first place. I wondered how cold the stream water was and how close I would come to it.

Yeah, it was expensive, but I paid for an experience that I may never get another chance to have. And that’s what my trip is all about, really. The big things and the small things, coming together to make one huge amorphous thing that you can’t quite identify, but you’re glad to have in your life.

I could probably do without this particular thing, though.

I could probably do without this particular thing, though.

This concludes the Spring (actually Autumn) break post-a-thon. I’ll update again as soon as I find something neat to do.