MENU

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.

Spanish Food

As titled, this post is solely about food because who doesn’t love food?

One of the best parts about Spain is tapas. Tapas are small meals, basically equivalent to appetizers (most of the time) that are very cheap and quick. So basically, if America combined the appetizers of fancy restaurants with the speed and price of fast food restaurants, we’d have tapas. Most tapas cost around 2.20 euros, or about 2.50 dollars. I love going out for tapas because the proper way to “go out for tapas” is to just hop from place to place for a few hours or until you’re full. It’s a great experience because it’s cheap, still healthier than most food in America, and I get to try all sorts of different food in a short span.

One of my favorite places for tapas is La Buena Vida. It’s a very small place but the service is excellent and they have the closest thing to American food. When I’m hungry and homesick, La Buena Vida is the place to go.

My other favorite place is called Brasador y Tapas XXL. The XXL is for the size of the tapas… I made that up, but it seems right. The portion sizes at Brasador are that of a regular (American) entrée, for the low price of 2 euros. In addition, this place is right on the river and is made of glass allowing you to people watch, no matter where you sit.

As good as the tapas are, nothing beats a home-cooked meal, especially when your host mom is the best cook in all of Spain. Somehow my host mom has turned foods I don’t normally like into dishes I love. For example, I don’t even know what the food in the picture to the is called but it looks a little gross… however, I wolfed that down and loved it.

Here’s a few more pictures of some of our meals, and there hasn’t been one I didn’t like. Every home-cooked meal is accompanied by bread, gazpacho or salad, and fruit for dessert. Never in my life have I eaten so healthy and loved it so much.


Natalie Rediger is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Criminal Justice and Criminology. Natalie is spending six weeks of the summer studying 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.

Eat Up

This was one of the streets in Newport. On the left is one of the Scottish museums and on the right (which you can’t see) is a bunch of shops. The streets are all made of cobblestone, which you will find throughout all of Edinburgh.

I set aside the homework for the day and went out to go shopping with some friends in my study abroad group. After a few hours we all had worked up an appetite from all the money we had spent and the miles of walking probably had something to do with it too.

We found ourselves in a part of Scotland called Newtown, which had more expensive shops and glamorously dressed people. We stopped at this vegetarian place called Hendersons. It was a cafe, salad bar, and restaurant all wrapped into one. We decided to do some fine dining that night and sat in the restaurant portion of the building. This was the first sit down restaurant any of us had been to while in Scotland.

The restaurant had a kitschy, homey feeling about it. It was dimly lighted with a flame candle in the center of each table. There were also fresh daisies in a vase along with a silver bucket full of silverware. On the far edge of the table was a little wooden square that held the drink and dessert menu. The tables and chairs were wooden, some painted a soft, baby blue color and others left with its natural pine, wood color. On the wall across from where I was sitting, was a painting of people out on the farm. Overall, the restaurant had a warm, cozy feeling to it that allowed me to relax and forget about time.

Once my eyes adjusted to the dimmer lighting, I looked at the menu. It was short and sweet. I was skeptical at first of going to a vegetarian restaurant as I tend to associate vegetarians with eating weird vegetables. And from looking at the menu there were a lot of things I couldn’t pronounce or even knew what they were. One of the items on the menu was Hasselback Aubergines. We all looked at each other like, “what’s an aubergine?” We googled it and it turns out it’s just eggplant.

This was the entire food menu at Hendersons. There weren’t many options to choose from.

One of my friends was daring and ordered the Hasselback Aubergines and the waitress asked us if we knew what it was. We told her “eggplant! We googled it.” She laughed and thought it was funny and explained that a lot of people come in asking what it is.

I decided on the Lasagna of the Day (which was vegetable lasagne) with potato wedges and green salad. I was starving and it was the only item on the menu I could fully pronounce and sounded safe, so I went for it.

This was my vegetable lasagna, salad, and potato wedges. So far I have found that Scotland’s salads don’t have dressing on them nor offer a dressing.

When the food arrived my mouth was watering. My plate was full of delicious looking food. A fresh, crisp salad on one side. Two giant potato wedges on the other. And a nice, big rectangular piece of lasagne. I dove in and took a big bite of my vegetable lasagne and boy was it good. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in it since I couldn’t see much in the dim lighting, nor did I want to look close enough because if I saw a weird looking vegetable I would freak myself out.  So I blissfully and blindly ate my enormous plate of delicious food until I couldn’t eat anymore.

When everyone’s plate was clear the waitress came back and asked us all if we would like dessert. We all eagerly nodded our heads yes. The dessert in Scotland, I’m finding, is just too good to pass up. I got their blackberry pie and it was yummy. It was just the right amount of sweetness and the crust was soft, just how I like it.

This pie was deliciously sweet! The strawberry jam on the side was out of this world.

When we were done we got up from the table and went into the salad bar portion of the building where we had to pay. It was right next to the restaurant, just up a few small steps. There the waitress split up the check by asking us what items we would like to pay for and that was it.

There were quite a few differences I noticed in Scotland’s sit down restaurant than in the United States’. First, the atmosphere was calming and there wasn’t the feeling of being rushed to get us our food and get us out and on our merry way. I felt like I could have sat down there forever and no one would have minded. There was no rush or hurry in the service either. It was like everything was at a slower pace so you could enjoy your time in peace. Also, the waitress didn’t come to the table every five minutes checking to see if we needed anything else. The only times we saw her was when ordering drinks, to order food, once to see how everything was (when we all had finished), and ask about dessert.

If I was in the States eating at this restaurant, most would consider it poor service. The waitress hardly came by, the water wasn’t refilled and so on. Being a waitress myself, I know what Americans expect when eating out, and this was not it. We tend to always want the waitress in sight, glasses filled to the top, prompt delivery, etc. However, it was nice to not have the waitress around so often.  I got lost in time just talking, hanging out with friends, and enjoying great food. There was no rush and expectations from the waitress and it was refreshing.

Also, paying was at our own leisure. When we were ready, we got up to go pay instead of waiting for the checks to be delivered, swiped and returned. There also wasn’t any spot for a tip nor was a tip “required.” By the cash register, there was a small vase for tips that looked like would go to everyone and not just that one waitress you had. I felt like nothing was expected, you could enjoy your time and everyone was very kind.

I thoroughly enjoyed my dining experience at Hendersons and it is one of my favorite places I have eaten so far; I would definitely go back. Likewise, I loved how the service wasn’t rushed as I felt I enjoyed my time dining out much better.

I encourage you to go to a sit-down restaurant and try a new food you would never have tried before. Happy eating!

-Nicole Wilhelm


Nicole Wilhelm is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. Nicole is spending the month of July in many different cities in Scotland with the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland. Nicole is involved in UMKC’s Campus Ambassadors, Swim and Dive Club, BHS Society, and Student Nursing Association.

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.

A Guide to Scottish Food

The best breakfast I have ever had.

Hearty. That is the best word I can come up with to describe Scottish cuisine. I love the food here so much. I would stay in Scotland forever just for the food. The breads are all fresh. The fruits are all sweet and the deserts are out of this world. Don’t even get me started on how good their jams are. I am not a fan of their meats, but I don’t really like to eat meat back in the United States either. I am going to give you a guide today on what you MUST try if you are ever in Scotland and some great foods to try if you are a vegetarian! First, eat the scones. They are phenomenal. I have had a scone everyday for the past week because the are so good. You can put butter on it or eat it plain. But I think they are best with the raspberry jam here. The raspberry Jam is so good I could just eat that without the scone! Next, you must eat some pie while you are in Scotland. The fruits here are so good and fresh in the summer months, so a fresh slice of pie with a cup of coffee is a great way to spend an afternoon in Scotland.

My lovely pie and coffee.

It is a bit colder here in Scotland even in the summer months, so a nice cup of steaming hot coffee is nice on crisp breezy mornings. Make sure you find yourself in one of the many coffee shops around Scotland to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and the view of scenery around you. Another must have is Scottish shortbread cookies.

My half eaten Scottish Shortbread cookie! It was too good to wait to take a picture!

They are delicious with some of that raspberry jam I keep going on and on about or you can have them by themselves they are still just as great! The cheese here for sandwiches or Mac’ and cheese is amazing as well. It is very rich and worth a try. The vegetarian Lasagna here was not my forte, but my friends who are vegetarian loved it and the Risotto as well. Scottish scrambled eggs are also a must try. I ate all of my eggs up and I am going to have eggs again (and again, and again) before I leave Scotland! But to warn you, they do not refrigerate their eggs here… I went to the grocery store and the eggs are just sitting in a random food isle. I tried them though and they were still very tasty and I am still alive, so I promise you it will be okay!  Another Scottish staple that you must have is of course the famous Haggis. If you do not know what Haggis let me explain. It is diced up and seasoned sheep INSIDE of a sheep’s stomach. Now here me out, it is their national dish and it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Also if you are a vegetarian there is vegetarian haggis that you can try that is pretty tasty as well. These are just some of my favorites since I have been here, but feel free to branch out and try something new and different. You never know a new dish may become one of your favorites, or if not you may get a funny story out of it. Good luck and may cuisine adventure find you.


Kylie Wilson is a sophomore at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Nursing. She is spending the summer term abroad with the UMKC Honors Program in Scotland. Kylie is from small town Helena, Missouri and hopes to be a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit nurse in the future. She has a pet cow named Betsy whom she loves dearly.

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.

Travel is fun but rest, food, and homesick cures are important!

Last weekend my classmates and I went to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic.  At that point I’d been in Prague for a little over a week and had been busy every day since (including an 8 mile hike the weekend before).  I was excited for our trip and optimistic about my energy level for the adventure.  Oh how naive I was. Now, don’t get me wrong.  The trip was beautiful.  Some examples of the beauty.

We hiked up to these castle ruins directly from the train station.
Then we hiked from the ruins to Český Krumlov. Beautiful, right?! (SO tired by this point.)

My classmate Val and I had a mission.  Must find fried cheese.  Fried cheese is a Czech thing.  You HAVE to get fried cheese if and or when you visit.  We HAD to find it.  Our mission began around 8.  We left our beautiful bed and breakfast and headed toward the many restaurants we passed on our way to the hotel.

Our bed and breakfast is the adorable yellow building between the two adorable blue buildings.
The view from outside our hotel.  Love!

We made our way back over the bridge into the middle of the town.  I thought to myself,”This is the Europe I signed up for.”  I was overcome with excitement that I was exactly where I wanted to be! (forgetting that all I had to eat that day was two almond bars, yogurt, and a bag of chips…)

The town center. Complete with a phone booth!!

 

Phone booth! (I was way too excited about this.)

Eventually we remembered how hungry we were and how far we’d wandered from the hotel not finding fried cheese!

I’m so hungry-excited!

So, my classmate Val, messages our professor who recommended a place.  Where was this place, you ask?  Here…

Recognize these view?

Yes.  There was fried cheese in the restaurant below our room.  At this point it was about 9:30 and I was feeling the lack of food setting in.  I hoped that my experience with slow service in Prague did not translate to Český Krumlov.  I was wrong.  Just after the sunset Val and I got our fried cheese!

Victory is ours!!

We ate, laughed, shared stories about our lives, and awkwardly interacted with our server.

After dinner, around 10:30, I was fading fast and needed to sleep.  I didn’t quite feel like my usual self, but I thought all I needed was a good night’s sleep.  I happily made it through the first part of the day, seeing art and old telescopes at an old monastery. (I am an astrophysics major.)

Telescope used to look at the sun!

Fun, right?  For a while on this early 7AM day I enjoyed the art, the history, and the physics relics.  After another hike back down to Český Krumlov and up to another castle (twice) I hit an emotional wall.  I needed a break.  I needed to be alone.  I needed to do nothing.  So, I broke from the group, quietly sobbed, and found a calm little cafe.  Through my tears I timidly ordered an espresso and a tiramisu from a barista with an extremely uncomfortable look on her face.

The remains of my sorrowful but delicious snack.

We eventually got on a bus to return to Prague.  I cried half of the way there, missing home, and messaging my friends and my boyfriend.  After words of love and support from the people I love the most I felt a bit better.  New mission: Rest when I need rest!  Now, 4 days later, I feel back to normal.  Plans for this weekend?  I will take it easy and stay in Prague.

Also, when you’re home sick, find a Starbucks.

Homesickness cure.

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.

Struggle of Restrictive Diets

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to take this time to rant comment on living in Buenos Aires with dietary restrictions. Although maintaining a strict diet is not impossible, allow me to be the first to inform you that it is definitely not easy. As someone who eats only zabihah halal meat (I will go into this later), I have had difficulty finding a nice variety of food options.

Here’s some background information. Argentines eat a lot of meat. It’s a core component of almost every lunch or dinner entrée, whether it be an empanada, milanesa, tarta, asado, or a range of other foods. Not surprisingly, Argentine beef consumption per capita is the highest in the world. Furthermore, some of Argentina’s most important exports include beef and lamb. They are also known all over the world for their asado, which is a type of barbecued meat (beef or lamb) cooked on a parrilla grill. Clearly, meat is a big deal here.

Argentine asado barbecued meat
Argentine asado barbecued meat

So why exactly am I blogging about meat? Unfortunately, due to various reasons, whether religious or personal, not everyone can reap the benefits of this carnivorous culture. Personally, I only eat meat prepared following the Muslim tradition, which obviously presents a challenge here. I have also met some vegetarians who have had some struggles as well. I will try to explain the situation for various restrictive diets.


Halal (Zabihah)

Halal is a term exclusive to the Muslim tradition, but it can mean a lot of different things. In Arabic, halal simply means “permissible”, i.e. something that a Muslim can eat. Most meats are considered halal, including chicken, beef, lamb, and goat, but excluding pork. However, to complicate matters, some Muslims (including myself) choose to only eat meat prepared in a specific method known as zabihah (dhabihah). The words zabihah and halal are often used interchangeably, but when a person asks for halal meat, he or she usually is referring to zabihah meat. For meat to be considered zabihah halal, several conditions have to be met upon slaughtering the animal. Without delving into minor details, these conditions promote thanking God for providing the animal and ensuring a swift, humane death for the animal. (Before I go any further, note that I am not an Islamic scholar or an animal rights expert, so please refrain from any angry comments. Thank you.).

Argentina is home to the largest Muslim population in all of Latin America, with over 400,000 Muslims nationwide. Yet, it is very difficult to find zabihah halal meat. Why? I have yet to find the exact answer, but I have some suspicions. First, Argentina lacks a large halal meat industry. In the United States, one can find Muslim owned-farms and factories that produce zabihah halal meat. As a result, this special meat is fairly widely available, often found even in places like Walmart. I suspect that Muslim participation in this industry does not exist in Argentina. Second, most of the Muslims here are descendants of Syrian or Lebanese immigrants who came to the country in the early 20th century. Stereotypically, these groups do not usually eat zabihah halal meat in the West. As a result, while you will find Muslims in Buenos Aires, not many will adhere to a diet composed of zabihah meat.

As someone who has eaten zabihah halal meat for my entire life, this has posed a struggle for me. Just yesterday, I took the subway and walked to an Arab restaurant called Al-Zain. My mother had told me that they serve halal meat (shout out to my mom for doing more research about Buenos Aires than I do myself), and I was hoping to pick up a shawarma or something in order to break my fast at sunset time. Upon arriving, I ran into two problems: 470xalzeinguia7-504

  1. Sunset here is at 6 PM. I barged into the restaurant a little before this time and frantically asked for halal food, which led to the owner (rightfully) looking at me as if I was a lunatic. I forgot that all restaurants are closed until at least 8 PM for dinner in Buenos Aires. Even 8 PM is early for Argentines. My arrival at 6 was basically blasphemous.
  2. When I asked if they had halal food, the owner openly responded that they did not. I inquired as to whether any restaurants in Buenos Aires would have halal food. His response? He doubts it. Essentially, Arab food is available. But zabihah halal food is not.

I later went to the mosque to break my fast after striking out at Al-Zain. I had a nice chicken meal there. I won’t question where the meat is from though.


Kosher

Kosher describes food that follows Jewish dietary regulations. I’m not Jewish, but I occasionally eat some Kosher meats when nothing else is available, as their special slaughter methods are actually quite similar to the zabihah halal way. Buenos Aires has one of the largest Jewish populations in the world outside of Israel and the United States. Many of these Jews are Orthodox, which means that Kosher meat is available. Yet, the problem that I have faced is that there are a lot of kosher carcinerías (butcher shops), but not that many restaurants. Essentially I would have to buy raw meat and prepare a meal (which does not seem like the most appealing use of my time studying abroad). However, I am still aiming to try the few kosher restaurants that there are in the city. I hear there is even a kosher McDonald’s.


Seafoodsouth-america-country-map

I have never had much of a problem with only eating zabihah halal meat in the United States, mainly because I am able to order fish or shrimp or some sort of seafood dish at most restaurants. I expected to do the same here. I was wrong.

Take a look at a map of Argentina and locate the city of Buenos Aires at the eastern edge of the country. Buenos Aires is a large port city along the water. That means there must be a lot of seafood in the city, right? Nope! Apparently, rather being on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Buenos Aires is actually located at the convergence of multiple rivers, known as Río de la Plata. What this means is that there is little seafood to be found in the city. I have yet to see any fresh fish or shrimp in any restaurant. Occasionally tuna empanadas are available, but these are also more rare.

 

So if you are hoping to eat fish or shrimp as a replacement for meat, good luck!


And last, Vegetarian

It is possible to be a vegetarian in Buenos Aires. In fact, the lady who sat next to me on the flight here told me that she was trying to become vegetarian. But due to the prevalence of meat in most foods, maintaining a vegetarian diet is pretty hard. I think that the public awareness of vegetarians must be pretty low, as most of the workers at various bakeries have given me strange looks when I ask for something sólo con verduras (only vegetables). And so far, the only common vegetables that I have seen alone in foods are berenjena (eggplant) and zapallo (squash). Occasionally you can find sweet potatoes and spinach as well. Ultimately, this makes it challenging to eat a vegetable-only diet.

 

By now, I am tired of writing a giant blog post on meat. It really isn’t that interesting. But I thought this would be an interesting topic to write about as it has been one of my daily struggles in Buenos Aires. This along with fasting while going on excursions makes the food situation a nightmare! I really can’t complain though because there are options available, but one has to make an effort. Overall, I hope this post was informational and congratulations if you made it this far.

Until next time,

Imran Nizamuddin

The 3 M’s — Malta, Mdina, & Magnificent!

I loveeeee my Maltese life. A few days ago I went to Mdina, Malta’s old capital, and Rabat which surrounds Mdina. The bus that I took to get there broke down on the way. It was riding smoothly and all of a sudden I heard a huge pop. I was the only one on the bus and the bus driver just stopped and kind of stared at me in the rearview mirror (awkward) until he got out to check on the bus. I just decided to walk the rest of the way. We were really close and I needed to burn some extra calories for eating three-too-many homeade cinnabons the night before. Oops. As I walked to Rabat, I passed some beautiful cathedrals, gardens and courtyards. This area had a medieval feel to it. Here is a picture:

My first stop was St. Paul’s catacombs in Rabat. The first thing I did after buying my ticket was watch their introductory informational film about the catacombs. As an overview, the catacombs were used by different religious groups as a cemetery for dead people. It was known as “The Dark Place” because of all the dark spirits that dwell(ed) there. Final thing, catacombs are located underground. You walk down to see where people were buried.

Now, let’s describe these catacombs a bit more depth. There were different staircases that led down to different catacomb rooms (for lack of better words). Outside of each catacomb entrance was was the size of the catacomb and how many steps it takes to get down. I was a bit creeped out so I only went in a few, but they were still pretty interesting. Here are some pictures to help you get a better understanding.

When I got done exploring the catacombs I went to Mdina (right next door) to do some souvenir shopping and grab lunch. I found out that Rabat has an outdoor market that opens Sundays, just like Marsaxlokk! I utilized self-control though and didn’t buy any of the beautiful items that were clearly calling my name hahaha.

I entered Mdina and was just as mind-blown as I was the first time I went. It’s such a unique, medieval -style area. There’s a mote that surrounds the entire entrance. I believe it was literally used during medieval wars. I picked a great day to come because on top of the Rabat market, there was also a Nutella festival going on! Once again, I resisted the temptation to get anything… until …. I saw a really cute Maltese guy at a smoothie booth who insisted I get one. He gave it to me half-price! There was also a pageant of some sort happening… I was surprised to see so many girls singing American songs — including Who’s Loving You by Jackson 5. Of course, her singing didn’t even compare to the original song.

 

By this time, I was 100 percent famished. I wanted to try an Indian restaurant that all of my friends ranted and raved about; apparently it was extremely delicious. I walked up and down the street I (thought) it was on for literally 30 minutes and had no luck! Just when I was about to give up and go somewhere else, I noticed a small little entryway that led to a different part of the street, which also led to the restaurant Sharma’s Ethnic Cuisine.

My flat mates definitely were not lying when they said this place was the bomb. It truly is, and has quickly become my favorite restaurant in Malta! I ate a good meal, let me tell you.

After being full and satisfied, I headed back to the residence. This truly was a great day of peace, solitude, learning, exploration and amazing food. I live for days like these.

Two Weeks of Repeats and Comfortabilities

Life is going so well!

I finally feel…..comfortable….at home. I have a schedule and routine for my life and I know where to go to get things done and how to actually do stuff. I feel like I’ve finally found my way and it’s pretty amazing.

I no longer have any other excuses now, though. I’m settled in so it’s time to really get to work with classes. I also have other goals that I need to accomplish for when I go back to the States. My goal is to enjoy the moment, but I’m such a forward thinker that I can’t help but to plan for what’s next.

I (finally) finished planning my spring break trip. Let me tell you, it was a really confusing process trying to find the most affordable route, but my travel buddy and I figured it out. We’ll be going to five different places over the course of 2 and a half weeks. I’m sooo excited for this adventure! When we first finished planning I was a bit disappointed, I’m not gonna lie. There were places I really wanted to go but couldn’t… But then I woke up from my slump and reminded myself how privileged and blessed I am to be traveling to 5 different countries… Wow!

 

I’ve learned a bunch of things about myself since I’ve been here, but my most recent discovery occurred when I got lost (for the zillionth time). I’m pretty horrible at directions. Maybe it’s just because Malta has winding streets that have no clear pattern, layout or design. Or maybe it’s because I’m from little ol Kansas and I don’t use public transit… but, I’ve just decided to put aside my pride and admit how horrible I am at getting around. Lucky for me, I have good ol Google Maps who always points me in the right direction. From here on out I am embracing my directional dysfunction as part of my learning experience and relying on Google Maps (which I actually just got hip to recently).

 

The past week has been a relax week. I’ve just been getting my schedule and routine together. My new flat mate from Germany (who speaks 5 languages, might I mention) wanted to explore Malta because she will only be here a limited amount of time. So I’ve spent the past couple of weeks showing her around the places I have already been.

As I was showing her around, I got to have a lot of second-time experiences

Most of the time the “first’s” are the best, but I had some pretty awesome second-experiences too. Allow me to give you an update on some of my recent second-time experiences and why they are just as good or better than my first-time experiences

San Anton Gardens: I went here as a final goodbye for my roommate that I mentioned earlier. San Anton is really simple, small and peaceful…AND, it’s right next to the President’s house. There are peacocks (yay) and cats (yuck) roaming around, along with other birds like swans and blue birds. We had a miniature photoshoot and then ate. I had some pretty amazing cajun pasta…it was definitely a refresher because cajun food items simply aren’t a “thing” over here.


 

  • One day I was really, really desperate… And really, really hungry… And it was really, really late…. So I decided to get some nuggets from McDonalds. I haven’t had McDonalds for years…. and boy did I feel sluggish afterwards. It met my hunger-need though.
  • I went to my favorite restaurant and Mdina. Last time I got carrot cake, but this time I tried the chocolate cake. The carrot cake was much better, in my opinion, but chocolate was still pretty delicious. In the process of us trying to have a photoshoot, my flat mate accidentally backed into the waiter, spilling all of the drinks and breaking all of the glasses.  What is Malta going to do with us Americans hahaha.
  • I finally found a place with good Chinese food…..but ordered the wrong dish. I got lost (again), but this time in Sliema and I just decided to embrace my lost-ness and get a nice dinner before I found my way back to the residence. I ordered “Prawn on Toast” and fried rice (prawn=shrimp, by the way). Well, it turns out that Prawn on Toast is a prawn(shrimp) sauce on a literal piece of toast. It was….fishy, to say the least. I guess now I know what not to order.
  • I literally discovered the most absolutely amazing burger place……NEW YORK BEST! It’s better better than any American place. The seasonings are great, the portions are great, the juiciness is perfect. Amazing is the word  I would use to describe it. It’s called New York Best. When I first discovered the name and how good it was, I just knew that it originated from New York. But I was wrong… it’s a Maltese company but they are trying to mimic New York (and doing a darn good job at it, too). I would say it definitely exceeds the New York standard. Plus the restaurant itself is really modern and sleek.
  • I went horseback riding on my favorite beach! It was amazing seeing the coasts of Malta and doing something that I love!

  • One of the receptionists hosts hikes throughout the semester for students, and we had our first hike. Omg, I live for these types of experiences. It was during this hike that I really felt like I was in a dream. How absolutely blessed am I?! It was definitely a long hike, and I definitely burned A LOT of calories. It was so absolutely beautiful.
 

 

 

That’s it, folks!

Kate (the Great) Date

My roommate, Kate, and I get along very well. We love the television and book series Outlander, are are enamored with Downton Abbey, and are major art history nerds. That being said, we are in an art history class together on Thursdays at 9:00 am. Our courses are 2.5 hours long, but only occur once a week. In these classes, we learn about various works and then go on-site to see them firsthand. Last week, for example, we went to the Bargello museum and viewed some of Michelangelo’s early sculptures we discussed not thirty minutes previous.

After class is over, Kate and I are both hungry. A shared look passes between us and we know that we’re about to hunt for something good. Two or three weeks ago, we ventured across the Arno river, about thirty minutes away, to get legendary American bagels. I feel so un-Italian when I admit that I get American food once a week, but then I remember the variety available back in the States. It isn’t uncommon to eat Mexican food one night for dinner, but feast on Chinese food the next. This fact makes me feel better, and also a little spoiled in the way we get such a mish-mash of cultures at home. Anyway, we chose different bagel sandwiches and cried a little inside.

Last week, we went to another American place and got ourselves some brunch at a local cafe specializing in American breakfast foods. Although it is American food, Italians frequent here, too. Our waiter, therefore, knew both Italian and English. Most shops in Florence employ people who know basic English as this city is filled with tourists and study abroad students. English is generally the common language for transactions, unless, of course, you are Italian. It is nice to be in a restaurant where Italian is the predominant language, and this little cafe is just like that. It is called La Vespa and is charming and quaint; similar to local brunch places in Kansas City. I had a breakfast burrito and Kate had a traditional egg, bacon, and toast combination platter. Again, we cried inside at the taste of home. It was absolutely delicious.

Afterwards, we went to a cafe called La Menagere. Again, this place is frequented by many locals and visitors alike. It is a cafe, bistrot, restaurant, flower shop, and even has a space for live music. Needless to say, it is large and beautiful. It faintly reminds me of Anthropologie from home. There are colorful couches interspersed with real tables and chairs for seating, and there is a lower level in addition to an heated patio outside. Although laptops and homework set us apart as Americans, we brought both to cross some schoolwork off our agendas. At normal bars (in Italy, a cafe/coffeeshop is a bar), one goes to the front to order and generally takes the espresso or drink there, if by yourself, but this cafe has waitresses milling around to take your order. We both ordered cappuccinos and settled in to work on our assignments.

That’s just a taste of what my Thursdays are like with Kate. She’s a marvelous lady, enjoys alone time just as much as I do, and is one of the kindest, most understanding humans I’ve ever met. Abby and Kate Dates on Thursdays are something I look forward to every week. Making friends in Florence was something I was nervous about, but having a roommate turn into a dear friend is a relief. I am grateful for this experience and for Kate!

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain

At the start of last week, I had zero expectations about celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain. During my time here, I’ve celebrated some Spanish holidays, so, except for missing family a little extra, missing out on a holiday from the United States didn’t seem like a big deal (also that I missed having Thanksgiving break from classes). This being said, several events occurred and it turned out to be a really fun and special Thanksgiving week, and I’m so grateful for the wonderful people who made that happen.

Our ISA directors planned a special volunteer week last week in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Some of the optional volunteering activities were bringing food to a shelter and spending time at a retirement home. Due to my class schedule, I was only able to volunteer one of the days, where we went to the Ronald McDonald House in Valencia. If you aren’t familiar with Ronald McDonald Houses (and many people in Spain have never head of the foundation), they provide housing for families whose children are receiving long-term hospital treatment.  We went to hang out with kids, talk about what we do to celebrate Thanksgiving, and help decorate the house for Christmas. It was a really fun afternoon. I also thought it was interesting to tour the house, which is situated next to the newest hospital in Valencia. All of the volunteers we met were exceptionally kind. Overall, it was a really great experience, and I’m so glad our study abroad program planned it! I didn’t take many pictures except some of the decorations we made.

IMG_20151125_195957737

Another thing the program planned for all of the exchange students in our program was a fancy Thanksgiving dinner. I was told it would be “traditional Thanksgiving food,” and to my surprise it really was! Turkey, salad, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin pie, the whole deal. It was also fun to get dressed up and spend a night having fun and eating way too much.

SONY DSC

The night also served as a form of goodbye. As our program is wrapping up in the next few weeks (now mine is ending in nine days!), it was a perfect opportunity to look back on all the trips and adventures from the last few months. They also gave out personality awards, which was very entertaining. I received “El más entusiasta” (the most enthusiastic). Here’s a photo of me with my three wonderful program directors in Valencia.

12301556_1040907842626311_571478635601495532_n

As if I didn’t already feel lucky enough, my host family also planned a Thanksgiving meal for me and my roommate. We did this the weekend after Thanksgiving. It was such a nice idea. The food was so delicious that we forgot to stop and take a photo of it before it was completely gone (obviously my host mom is an excellent chef). This meal was really fun, because it was all traditional dishes with a little bit of a twist. All in all, Thanksgiving week in Spain was absolute success.