The One Time I Try To Make a Plan

During a long four-day weekend off of classes in Buenos Aires, I decided to take advantage of the cheap flights to Santiago, Chile. This would be my first trip anywhere (let alone a new country) by myself as well as my first stay in a hostel. I booked my excursion with no plans besides my plane ticket and hostel reservation.

On Friday and Saturday, I had enjoyed simply wandering somewhat aimlessly about the city on my own during the day and then returning to the hostel at night for dinner and the (literally) daily fiesta. On Sunday morning, however, I wanted to do something more specific/planned, but less expensive than the tours most of my new hostel friends suggested. At breakfast, my new German friend Debbie told me about her plans to climb Cerro Pochoco, a “mini-mountain” accessible by Santiago public transit. This sounded perfectly accessible and affordable, so I did a little research while my phone recharged and then set off determined to climb a mountain.

After two hours navigating the Metro (subway) and colectivos (buses) to the outer limits of the city, I arrived at the end of my Google directions. Looking around, I did not see the parking lot and trailhead I had read about online. After wandering about for a bit and receiving confused, contradictory directions from two different locals (I did not have data to search the Internet for answers), I noticed a street sign labeled Calle Cerro Pochoco. I double-checked my phone and realized that Google Maps had directed me to a street named after Cerro Pochoco instead of the actual Cerro Pochoco. I was on the wrong side of the city.

A little dismayed, I began walking back towards the Metro station when lo and behold I ran into Debbie and her two friends. They had made the same mistake I had. Her friend Servi, who could use data on her phone, set a course for a new cerro to climb and invited me to come along. I agreed and we set off on the Metro together.

Through the train windows, the bright canopies of a féria caught my attention, so I left my new friends and hopped off the train at the next station. This féria was very different than those I had visited in Buenos Aires. The férias in Buenos Aires were full of artists and vendors selling crafts and homemade goods, whereas this was more like an open-air Walmart, with everything from fruits and vegetables to toilet paper, clothing and books to small electrical appliances. The best difference of all was that it was not intended for tourists. I was the only white person (and probably the only foreigner) there. Instead of tourists looking for souvenirs, I met Chileans doing their grocery shopping.

After walking about absorbing the authentic Chilean culture, I enjoyed a hearty lunch of whatever the amicable waitress recommended because I didn’t recognize anything on the menu. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to some more locals, eat affordably for the first time that weekend, and enjoy the sun and the heat after three weeks of cold in Buenos Aires.

I had noticed I small cerro in the distance and started walking off my lunch in that direction. I noticed some families and dogs climbing around and found the entrance to a rough trail. Once I reached the top, I realized just how far from downtown and how close to the Andes mountains I had wandered. Even from such a small cerro, the views were breathtaking. After catching my breath, soaking up the moment, and taking some obligatory selfies, I started heading back “home” to my hostel, completely satisfied with “lost” day.

The one time I tried to make a plan, it failed. But that mistake created my favorite day in Chile (and one of my favorites all summer) and provided an opportunity to experience a side of authentic Chilean culture far from the city center.

Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Newcastle Knights Rugby Match!

The McDonald Jones Stadium

On May 27, I attended a really interesting cultural activity, an authentic Australian Rugby match! For those unfamiliar with this sport, Rugby is a complete contact sport (meaning no pads or helmets worn!) in which two teams of thirteen players attempt to outscore each other within 80 minutes (in two 40-minute rounds). Points are scored when a player carries the ball and touches it on the ground space beyond the opposing team’s goal line. Additionally, points can be scored by kicking field goals over the opposing team’s goal post. Some interesting aspects about the sport are that the ball must be passed backwards at all times and each team gets five tackles to score, after which they have to kick the ball to the opposing team for their turn to try to score. Each player specializes in a certain position. The game requires a lot of speed, strength, and passing and kicking prowess. That’s Rugby in a nutshell!

Me and the Knights Mascot

The game I saw was held at the McDonald Jones Stadium at the Newcastle International Sports Center. As the name suggests, this is Newcastle’s premier sports center. The stadium is home to two of Newcastle’s prominent sports teams, the Newcastle Knights (Rugby) and Newcastle Jets FC (Soccer). The Rugby match I saw was between my city’s home team, the Newcastle Knights, and a team from Sydney, the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. The match was very interesting to say the least. I had never seen a Rugby match before, so this was a unique experience. It was thrilling and exciting to see the players run across the field passing the ball backwards attempting to get the ball past the opposing team’s goal line as the opposition tries to bring them down. As a Novocastrian (the local term for someone from Newcastle), I rooted hard for the Knights. The stadium was quite packed, and it was fun engaging in the enthusiasm of the match. Despite our lively cheers and show of support, the Knights unfortunately lost to the Sharks, 10 to 48. Although the loss was a bit disheartening, I overall had a spectacular time. I was impressed by the performance of all the players. It takes a lot of strength and stamina to play Rugby and seeing the players play for almost 40 minutes straight in two rounds astonished me. If you ever get a chance to see a Rugby match, I would strongly recommend seeing it. I’m not a sports person at all, but I greatly enjoyed what I saw!

In the Stadium, before the Match.
The Stadium Scoreboard
The Match going on!
The Knights huddling together.
Me after the match, feeling good despite the loss!

Aman Kukal is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Economics. Aman is spending the spring semester in Newcastle, Australia with the ISA Newcastle, Australia: Courses with Locals program.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Helado and Heat Strokes

Last week we toured the Alhambra, a palace and fortress located in Granada, Spain. Originally it served as a small fortress until the Moors renovated and rebuilt it in the 13th century. But after the Christian Reconquista of 1492 it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. The same Ferdinand and Isabella that endorsed Christopher Columbus! History is so cool.

In the gardens of the Alhambra

So our toured started at 3 in the afternoon, which is not only siesta time but also the hottest part of the day. The day we went, it was a whopping 109° Fahrenheit. I knew it was going to be a hot day when I saw paramedics casually walking around with their gear and water jugs. Nevertheless, walking around a fortress that has stood since the 9th century was pretty amazing. I felt like I was walking in a set of Game of Thrones. 

A ceiling in one of the bedrooms
Spain is full of cute doors to take pictures in front of…

The tour took around 4 hours and by the end of it we were all exhausted, but it was worth climbing up all those stairs for the amazing view of the city we’ve all been living in for the past month. Also it was probably due to the dehydration, but I have never tasted helado (ice cream) so amazing.

From the top of the fortress
I couldn’t ask for better program leaders!

Thankfully, no one from our group had a heat stroke. But, if you do ever find yourself visiting the Alhambra make sure you bring a fan! I would also recommend going on a guided tour so you get the most out of your visit. I don’t think I would have appreciated the architecture, and I learned so many quirky facts about the kings and queens that resided there. I also need to brag about how amazing my program leaders are. Lorena and Louis have made this summer abroad so fun and I don’t know what any of us would do without them. If you’re thinking about studying abroad with UMKC, you definitely need to go with these two.

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Megan Schwindler is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying English Literature and Spanish. Megan is spending the summer abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

España vs. Me: Round Two

The history and culture shock of Spain continued down its path with me as I began to more fully comprehend the  amazing accomplishments that took place in the last five thousand years or more.

La Granja Royal Palace was an interesting find on our tour throughout Spain. Just outside the small town of San Ildefonso, the summer palace and its gardens were a wonderful delight that I did not think any king would ever want. The 1,500 acres of gardens, trees, groves, and amazing flowerbeds and fountains were stunning.

A flower bed of the La Granja gardens.
A view looking down at one of the main fountains at the garden.

The most incredible thing was how the king had Red Woods shipped from the United States to Spain just so he could have them in the garden. The fountains and architectures were modeled after Versailles, and I found it interesting how the palace now belongs to the people and that they are allowed to visit inside of it. The garden continues to grow all of the original species of plants that were originally planted, and the palace itself contains all of the original furniture and architecture from its original conception as well.

The Mezquita that we had the welcomed pleasure of seeing is the ultimate symbol of how the three cultures of Spain, Jewish, Moor, and Christian, came together and completely redeveloped a new mosque-cathedral as new kings ruled over the area.

View of one of the old entrances to the Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain.

Though the mezquita is mainly a representation of the Moor and Christian cultures, I believe that the history behind it was influenced by all three cultures, even if it wasn’t at the same time. Each chapel represents a different part of the religions and I found most fascinating the pillars that were inscribed with different meanings.

A neighborhood of the “Village of Three Cultures”.

Frigiliana is a town that takes the time to celebrate the Festival de las Tres Culturas (Festival of Three Cultures) at the end of August. This festival commemorates the coexistence between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions, as well as the regions historic confluence.

One of the most pure colored houses of the “White Village”.

This special town, also known as the “White Village” inspired me to find the time during this study abroad trip and visit it again. Though I did not like all of the stairs that we had to climb, this white village full of artists and flowers was the push I needed to continue my journey through the Spanish culture and the Spanish Language.

Grace Englehart is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Creative Writing and Spanish. Grace is spending the summer term abroad with the faculty-led UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Religion, Government, and the Czech Republic: It’s complicated.

***First I want to say that I am not here to tell anyone what to think or what to believe.  I am also not attempting to critique any particular religion.  My goal is to inform those who read this of the complicated relationship between religion, government, and the people within the Czech Republic.***

Last Friday we went to a little town outside of Prague called Kutna Hora to see a bone chapel.  The size of the chapel was underwhelming, but the amount of bones in the chapel was astounding!  I took pictures of the story behind the chapel’s creation.

Page one! Long story short, the ground here will not break down the bones, so someone decided to make a chapel out of them.
Page two!

Now some pictures of the hauntingly beautiful bones: 

The creepy and awesome bone chandelier. It’s the first thing you see when you enter.

The Czech Republic has a long and difficult history with the Catholic Church.  The churches, cathedrals, and other christian symbols remain; however, the current population of the Czech Republic is overwhelmingly atheist or agnostic.  My professor Dr. Robbins, an American, told us that they also prefer to not discuss their religious leanings in public.  Czechs do have opinions and beliefs, but because of the strict censorship laws and brutal enforcement of such laws under communism there is still a hesitancy for expression.  Similarly, we were informed, that Czechs do not like to be a part of any conformist organization.  The history of the Catholic Church in this area includes methods of control over Czech peoples lives and livelihood, much like what they experienced under communism.  Czechs learn their history like the back of their hand from the time they are 6 years old, so most Czechs come to the same conclusions.

The Czech perspective is helping me redefine what I think it means to be an American.  (I will not share my new opinions regarding that.)  I will say that immersing myself in another culture has given me a newly calibrated lens with which to view myself and others.  I highly recommend study abroad.  It will change your life!!

Lauren Higgins is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Physics with emphasis in Astronomy.  Lauren is spending the summer abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Ireland and its North

Ireland has a short-but-controversial history with it’s northern neighbor. Following a history of colonial oppression by the British, Ireland was finally able to break free, in part, following an agreement in which most of the nations counties would become part of the free Irish Republic. The north had a greater quantity of British loyalists, so a collection of six counties were made to remain part of the United Kingdom.

For some, this was a point of pride, but for others it became a source of distress. Decades of political conflict were brought to a head during The Troubles, when the conflict turned to terrorism from both sides.

Officially, The Troubles ended following peace treaties signed by organizations on either side of the conflict, but the sociopolitical tension remains strong within The North.

We visited Northern Ireland as a daytrip to Belfast, the city which suffered the greatest during the Troubles. Our tour guide told us the history of the nation as we approached the border, but failed to mention The Troubles themselves.

As we reached Belfast and began our tour of the city, we transferred ourselves to black taxis. When asked why this was necessary, we were told the Irish-green buses previously used fell victim to too many terrorist attacks. The guide then went on to explain how religious conflict was still incredibly-common within The North, and how all five of the tour guides had an immediate family member killed in a hate crime.

The city itself remains strongly divided between catholic and Protestant. One neighborhood had 50,000 members and zero Catholics, while another had 30,009 and only Catholics.

The most surprising part came upon touring the Peace Wall, a ten-meter tall concrete partition between the two halves of the city. Designed to prevent terrorism, it’s supported even contemporarily by 85% of the citizenry.

My impression of the Irish republic so far had convinced me of the nations charm, but led me to believe all of Ireland was a slightly-modified United States. It wasn’t until I came to Northern Ireland that I realized portions of the nation still exist in a state of conflict.

The tour made me feel for the people on both sides of the conflict, and brought me a new appreciation of the tranquility of my life in America.