A Delicious Burger, Among Other Things

Ferg Burger
The past two weekends I went on a couple trips, as well as spending some valuable time with my flat mates here in Dunedin. The first trip was up to Christchurch. Here I met up with my good friend and fellow Hope College student, Mary Kate, who is studying in Christchurch this semester. I arrived on a Friday night and we went out with her friends to a couple clubs, and returned back to the flat without causing too much raucous. The next day we explored the morning farmer’s market, before heading into the heart of the city. The city of Christchurch had a very damaging earthquake early in 2011, with many casualties as a result, as well as an extensive amount of damage. It was very surreal seeing the destroyed buildings that have yet to be rebuilt. The most interesting part of this experience was the abandoned buildings, such as a book store and a coffee shop, which have gone untouched since the earthquake, looking as if they were frozen in time.
Ancient Quesadilla
Next, we headed to a hiking trail that led up into the hills above the city. The view was nice at first; although eventually the fog got so bad we couldn’t see 100 feet in front of us. To get down the mountain, we went to the other side into a town called Littleton, where we stopped to rest and grab a warm beverage and snack. We took the bus back to the flat and watched LOTR FOTR until the wee hours of the night. The next morning we explored the city a bit more, until it was time for me to head back. On the journey back to Dunedin, we stopped in the small town of Oamaru, where we tried to sneak a peak of some penguins, but there were none to be found.

The next weekend, another Hope student and friend, Jacob Bonnema, visited me during his spectacular solo vacation around New Zealand. We drove out to Queenstown, where we explored the city the first night. After feasting on our famous and extraordinarily delicious Ferg Burgers, we rested for the night. The next day, Jacob went on his trip out to Milford Sound, while I had the day to myself. My goal was to have the most fun for the least amount of money. I found a nice little 9-hole golf course nestled in the city, where I rented some clubs and did my best Tiger impression. Although my play wouldn’t have won me any majors, I had a great time teeing off while being surrounded by large mountains with snowy peaks. Later I squired myself about town before having a couple of delicious cold ones beside the lake.

On our last day, we took the short drive to the town of Glenorchy. This drive was a windy road through the mountains along the river, and is no doubt in the top 10 of the most gorgeous drives I have ever taken. After spending a short time walking through town, we made our way back to Dunedin.
Road to Glenorchy
The next week I spent some great time with my flat mates and other great friends. Dan, Tim, and myself have become somewhat infamous in our flat for playing card games to no end. I would easily guess we have amassed over 15 hours of cards in the past week alone. Also, we take time each Monday night to watch the newest episode of Breaking Bad. Since it is on cable television that is not streamed to New Zealand, we have to take special measure using the World Wide Web to be able to watch it a few hours past it’s original air time. It is a very fine bonding experience.

Later that week, a few of us went out to a nearby beach where there is often Sea Lions getting cozy in the warm sun. This was a spectacular event, as we were able to get within several feet of the marvelous creatures. Being the risk-taker that I am, I ventured a little too close to the beasts, receiving a bit of a warning when they began to hop towards me. Although I may have flown too close to the sun a couple times, it was surely a day to remember.
Fun time with Mr. Sea Lion
These journeys have been nothing short of spectacular, and I look forward the upcoming semester break, where I will be off to Australia for 10 days of adventure.

PB&J count: 62

Let the Adventures Begin…

In THREE days I am leaving for Sighisoara, Romania, and I could not be more excited! Last week, I had a final meeting with Professor Sturtevant, the professor and chair of the department of social work and sociology at Hope, and Jill, my friend and fellow Hope social work student who will also participate in the Romania Studies Program (RSP) this fall. In this meeting, we reviewed the basic guidelines and requirements for fulfilling our 440 field practicum hours while in Romania, and Professor Sturtevant gave us last-minute tips on how to adapt to the Romanian culture. Because Jill and I are the first Hope social work students to seek to fulfill our field practicum hours through the RSP, we do not know what exactly to expect from this trip. I believe that the “unknown” aspect of this trip is what excites me the most. We are the “guinea pigs” for the social work department, and this opportunity is seen as a blessing for my adventure-seeking heart. I anticipated leaving the meeting feeling overwhelmed, and was surprised when I felt even more assured that this is the trip God has in store for me. It will be comforting having a friend embark on this journey with me, and I am thrilled that I get to leave so soon.

These last few days have been filled with last-minute shopping, visiting friends, and spending time with family. I am still working on packing, and I have found it extremely helpful that the director of the RSP, Dorothy Tarrant, sent us a packing list that included the breakdown of clothing and toiletry necessities, gift ideas for our host parents, non-essentials that we may have room for, as well as possible donation ideas for the sister program in Romania called Veritas. I have planned out what I intend to bring, and now the trick is to fit it all in the one suitcase and one carry-on that I am allowed to bring – I’ll let you know how that goes. 😉

Wish me luck, and keep me in your prayers, for in THREE days I will begin the trip of a lifetime!

Marga  =)

PB&J’s for Second Breakfast, Part 1

Myself at the top of Mt. Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty
So I’ve been in New Zealand for 4 weeks now, and through absolutely no fault of my own, just got this blog set up. Now it’s time to get everyone reading caught up to speed on what’s going on over here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. However, due to the number of amazingly fun adventures, of which you are sure to be jealous, along with the strange yet titillating mini-adventures on which I have embarked, I have decided to make a 2-part recap of the last 4 weeks. This is PB&J’s for Second Breakfast, Part 1.

June 22: A warm, sunny day on the southwest side of the greater Detroit area. It started off just as I anticipated; my mother’s bi-annual baking of my favorite cinnamon rolls.  In a pack of 10, 200 calories each, I inhaled my all-time favorite breakfast, soaking up the 2,000 calories in mere minutes. However, this day was unlike the other times I had eaten this delicious concoction. Normally I would sit around the house for a few hours, allowing my digestive system to undergo a complete overhaul. Instead, I had to rush to my room to complete my packing before driving to the beautiful Detroit Airport.

After saying my goodbyes to my loving parents, I hopped on the plane, with a stop in Chicago, and over to LAX. With a 5 hour layover, I took my time to navigate the surprisingly confusing and overwhelming airport to make my way to the proper terminal. About 13 hours later, I was in Auckland, New Zealand.

Along with the rest of my GlobaLinks group (About 50 students), we made our way to the tour bus as the sun rose over the green pastures surrounding the airport. Our first stop was to a hill (the hill’s name I cannot recall) overlooking the city. It was a gorgeous view at the top; a great way to start my long journey.

We returned to the hotel, went to our rooms, and, after far too long, showered. With a fresh, clean feeling, we were free to roam about the city, with only a short meeting and nighttime meal on our schedule. The meeting was enjoyable, as we met our leaders for the week, Paul and Tyme (both Kiwis). We did the usual, icebreakers and safety protocol, while they read us stories of former students who got into some trouble during their time in the country. Being a risk-taker myself, I felt no fear. After the meeting, we were free to explore. With a few other students, I walked about, stopping at the pier, as well as having a beer in a local pub. Shortly after, I separated from the group, walking about the city on my lonesome. I entered shops here and there, as well as further explorations of the pier.

Later that night, we had a dinner paid for by the program (as most of our meals during the week would be), and returned to the hotel. While some students were keen on having a few drinks that night. I was determined to go to bed at a reasonable hour. However, instead of listening to my gut and overcoming jet lag, I realized I only had one night in Auckland, and I wanted to see the city. So I went out alone, and explored the nearby casino. I spend about 30 minutes watching gamblers play craps, roulette, and a few card games before heading out. I ran into a few other students, and with them we explored the city before I returned to bed to restore my internal clock.

We left the next morning for Rotorua, a few hours drive from Auckland, for 4 days of great adventure. We had a couple more meetings each day, but the real excitement came from the extras. On one of the days, we went on our pre-booked adventures. I chose white-water rafting. While not quite as intense as my previous white-water experience as a teen, this river was absolutely gorgeous, and included a 7 meter waterfall drop (the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world). I got a special treat, as my raft flipped over and we were dumped into the water. It was truly invigorating.

The next day we went to the Waitomo caves. Here, we repelled down waterfalls, squeezed through holes, and viewed glow worms 2 inches from our faces in the pitch black (to date, this is my favorite experience here in NZ). It was amazing. I felt like I was on the film crew for Planet Earth.

We departed the next day for our individual universities around the country, hopping aboard some small planes out of a disturbingly low security airport. I arrived in Dunedin with a handful of other GlobaLinks students, hopped aboard a shuttle, and arrived to my flat at night. My home for the next few months resides on Castle Street, in the heart of the city.

My first two weeks involved getting accustomed to the university, learning where my friends from the GlobaLinks program were living, and meeting my flat mates. My flat, from what Tim, my Kiwi host, has told me, is one of the better flats that the university has to offer. The first week of classes is known as Re-Orientation week, where there are comedians, bands, festivals, and the Paint Party (which set the Guinness World Record for largest paint party). This week was filled with many get-togethers and fiestas. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a very college-oriented town, and that any night I wanted to go out, there would always be something to do. Each night holds something new and enjoyable, as I grow accustomed to taking care of myself.
Bell tower of the university
Through several factors, mainly my inability to cook and the lack of a cheap meals around town, I have resorted to eating an inordinate amount of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Between these, scrambled eggs in the morning, and the occasional pasta and alfredo meals, the number of PB&J’s I have taken into my body astounds even the most dedicated of PB&J enthusiasts. My meals have become the epitome of cheap and plain eating. Although no matter how many I eat, each sandwich is more scrumptious than the last.

Well, I skipped over a few bits here and there, but Hope College is paying me to blog, not to tell you what I ate for lunch on a Wednesday in a random city in northern New Zealand (it was a pork curry at a Thai restaurant….delectable).

PB&J’s for Second Breakfast, Part 2 coming whenever I get around to it.

PB&J’s for Second Breakfast, Part 2

So I’ve been in New Zealand for 4 weeks now, and through absolutely no fault of my own, just got this blog set up. Now it’s time to get everyone reading caught up to speed on what’s going on over here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. However, due to the number of amazingly fun adventures, of which you are sure to be jealous, along with the strange yet titillating mini-adventures on which I have embarked, I have decided to make a 2-part recap of the last 4 weeks. This is PB&J’s for Second Breakfast, Part 2. (Click here for Part 1).

After spending the first two weeks of school in Dunedin, 4 other males and I decided to make a last second travel plan to Milford Sound for the weekend. We rented a cheap car and stuffed in there, ready for a weekend of glorious views and mighty peaks. I was the first to drive, in the dark, no less (we left at 6 am), so I had to get used to the left side of the road in a hurry. All was well for most of the drive, as I became accustomed to having the wheel on the right side of the car, when out of nowhere there was a car heading straight at me in my lane trying to pass a truck. I quickly hit the brakes and made a slight swerve going into the shoulder. The other driver did the same, pulling back behind the truck. Disaster was avoided, but the collective heart of our vehicle may have skipped a few beats in that fleeting moment.

The highways here in New Zealand are not the four-lane luxury interstates we are used to in America. Here, they are 1 lane, weaving and winding through the hills and mountains of the beautiful landscape, making for a rather enjoyable yet slightly more dangerous driving experience. As we moved closer to the Fiordland National Park, the scenery became even more delightful, as we were greeted by mountains with snowy peaks before our very eyes. We stopped at several locations along the way to take in the scenery, and I could barely contain myself. I was in absolute awe at the majesty of the famous fjords. After a brief dip in the shimmering, yet freezing, waters of Lake Te Anau, We were almost to our final destination: Milford Sound.

To access the sound, we needed to go through Homer Tunnel, which cuts a half mile through the heart of the mountains. After another long, winding road through the valley between the peaks, we were at the sound. It was a breathtaking view, as the mountains seemed to jut out the water until they reached the stratosphere.
Milford Sound
Since the only way to really see the sound is to take the somewhat pricey cruise along the lake, and since we were trying not to spend too much this weekend, we decided to make camp outside of the Sound. After exiting Homer Tunnel, we made our way to the picturesque Lake Gunn, where we made camp for the night. After a night of charades, which would soon become commonplace amongst the group, we were ready for a nice hike up Key Summit the next morning.

We proceeded up along the trail through the rainforest-type flora and fauna, basking in the glow of Mr. Golden Sun peering through the treetops. There were several views of a small yet gorgeous waterfall, as well as a certain point that looked like there was a way to climb down to get a better look (we’ll get to this later). We reached the top of Key Summit, but were greeted by views that we did not expect nor welcome.

It was fog. Nothing but endless fog.

What was supposed to be a lovely view of the surrounding mountains was nothing but a collection of liquid water droplets suspended in the air near the Earth’s surface. We continued to walk around at the top, before admitting defeat to Mother Nature and headed back down. On the way down, I spotted a way to climb down to a waterfall, and could not pass up the opportunity. I used roots to slowly ascend down the muddy hill, before sliding down the last 15 feet. The view was incredible, and I was glad I climbed down, but I soon realized getting back up would not be an easy task. It was all muddy with no firm roots for me to grab hold. There was a creek that looked as if it would take me in the direction of where the path had started, so I yelled up to my friends to meet me down a ways. After walking along the creek, I found myself at the edge of a previously unseen large waterfall, with no way down.  I started to worry how I would escape, before finding another way up through the jungle. I climbed up for a few minutes before finding the path, and proceeded to catch up to the others, who were less than jubilated that I had attempted such a foolish feat.

The next day, we made a long hike up to Lake Marion, which turned out to be a stunning sight. I climbed out to a rock peninsula, briefly removing my socks and shoes so I could wade out a bit further. There was a waterfall to the side, and the combination of the clear lake and large mountains made for a rather peaceful feeling. Our time in the Fiorlands was over, and I am filled with serenity any time I picture the amazing scenery that was upon me that weekend. We returned home, and caught up on our rest before class began again on Monday morning.
A refreshing dip beneath the mountains.
The very next weekend, we were back to the trails. This time, it was to the Catlins, south of Dunedin. Our plan was a simple two-day hike while camping out overnight. The hike was lovely, as we cut through the amazing jungle, whilst waking across several catwalks that seemed about as sturdy as a Kardashian marriage.

Just before dusk, we arrived in an open field where we would set up our tents. As the moon and stars became apparent, we built a nice little fire and gazed at the heavenly cosmos above. The beauty in the skies that night was almost enough to make me want to switch my major to astronomy. For the first time in my life, I was able to see the Milky Way peer through our Solar System the same way an Osprey peers through the water to spot it’s next meal. It was simply a breathtaking experience.

The next morning, we made the tramp back to our cars and headed to a town nearby, where the sweet old lady running the local museum gave us directions to a waterfall in the area, as well as a lighthouse lookout called Nugget Point. After briefly viewing the cascading falls, we made the short trip to Nugget Point. Here, we feasted our eyes on the vast waters of the Pacific. We walked out to the lighthouse, where we were able to see some sea lions on the rocks down below. After this, we returned back to Dunedin for yet another week of classes.
View from Nugget Point lighthouse.
Keep in mind, that during all of these stories, I am averaging about 2.5 PB&J’s per day. During the weekend trips, it’s literally all I eat. I’ve found that the best way to pack food for these journeys is to pre-make PB&J’s, so that you don’t have to carry the ingredients with you on your excursion. Because of this, I have decided to keep track of the number of PB&J’s I ingest this semester. I will also update the count at the end of each blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read my 2-part recap of my first 4 weeks in New Zealand. There are plenty more adventures to be had, so I’m sure I’ll have no problem keeping this blog as updated as humanly possible.

Current PB&J count: 47.

The Last Days

Why is it that we don’t fully appreciate what we have until its about to leave us?  My last days in Beijing were certainly ones for the books!  I made last outings with my friends from my program, spent some last time with my host family and just took in the city one last time.  I went back to several places that I went to at the beginning of the semester, and not only do the places look totally different now that spring has sprung, but I’m not the same nervous overwhelmed girl that I was when I saw them the first time.  I can sorta kinda speak Chinese.  I have an idea of where I’m going and what’s going on.

I also stayed an additional five days in Beijing after the end of my program which was a great choice.  Some friends stayed around before they left for a trip to Tibet, so I hung out with them and then had a final full day by myself, which was absolutely the perfect amount of time to process saying goodbye to the city and my semester.  One night, seven of us rented a little battery boat and just randomly went around one of the lakes in Beijing that is surrounded by walking paths and little restaurants with rooftop areas.  I had also been there at the beginning of the semester and watched people ice skate on the lake that we were now boating in, watching the sun go down in every shade of orange and pink.  On my last day, I walked across Tiananmen Square and thought about all of the things that have happened in China just in recent history.  I ate last plates of noodles and dumplings.  It was awesome.  By the end of the day I was a little more ready to head home and be with people again, which I’m thankful for.  I’m going to Colorado in a week to start my summer job, so I wanted to do the best I could for myself to ease through reverse culture shock in such a short amount of time, and staying extra time in Beijing was definitely the best thing I did.

The hardest part of leaving is always saying goodbye to friends you have made.  IES Beijing was 60 students from all over the country (and the world) from all different schools.  I’ve realized how much of my life I’ve spent around people who are very similar to me, and how awesome it was to meet so many different people.  I may have learned more from my classmates than just about anything else that I did.  The last night of the program was surreal, just like all goodbye nights are.  We had graduation, dinner, then China Night (performances) and then we all went to the Cafe, an on campus hang out.  “Sweet Caroline” was sung.  Birthdays were celebrated.  Laughter was shared for one last time.  There was then the 1:30 exodus of a considerably smaller group to a Chinese fast food restaurant, and one final cab ride back to my homestay.  Beijing is so serene late at night.  Goodbyes are hard.  They always are.  “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh

I’m going to miss the busy street life of China a lot.
As a diehard Michael Phelps fan, this was above and beyond awesome!
Last stroll across Tiananmen captured by my broken camera
The Forbidden City
Sunset view from a boat! Blessed.


It is a Bittersweet Symphony this life.

Well, this is probably the last time I will be writing about how fun my studying abroad experience was unless I will write about how it feel to be in USA (which I will not do). It has been a really great semester and right now I am in London which is my last stop before I head back to Holland Michigan.

When the semester started I was confused and nervous of how it will be to live in a country and a continent that was so strange to me. Things progressed as time passed and by the time I was very comfortable with the surrounding and the people around me it was time to leave. Knowing that it is time to leave is always a bittersweet feeling; on one hand I have learnt so much about Europe, the European Union (apparently more than any people who actually live here), met a lot of new people, and travelled so many new places, and on the other hand I am leaving a lot of good friends I have met in the past several months not knowing when we would meet again. In a way I knew that this was coming but the people who I shared the past few months with will always be special because let’s face it, I will not be travelling all over Europe with the same 52 people ever again (unless).


Me telling you how good it was can go on forever so if you really think that I am right then you should try it for yourself. Just find a place you want to travel and learn the culture, get out of your comfort zone, and in the end you will discover places, people, and most importantly yourself too. I would recommend it to anyone who I will talk to as this has been the most amazing few months of my life. I will probably try and send my kids abroad too.


One more thing that I realized was that there was a question on my first day of orientation in Freiburg which asked me one place I really wanted to go to. I had written Anfield which is the football stadium for my favorite football team since I was a kid. Since I have a Nepalese passport I knew that getting to UK and to Liverpool was going to be hard but yesterday I managed to get there and it was a very emotional time. Today I have just been contemplating how far I have come from the day I left Holland and ready to go back. It has been a great time writing about all that I have done and if you ever see me in the sidewalks of Hope college please come by and ask me how it actually was. I will make sure not to take a lot of your time because in the end it was all amazing.


The End is not near, it is here.

So, it is almost the end. I have two days before I leave Freiburg and with that I will leave a totally new part of my life not knowing when I will get back to it. It sounds very sad but when I think of all that I have done in the past four months, I am super delighted to have been part of IES Europe program in Freiburg.

It is all byes and it was nice knowing you talks right now and thinking about the first time when I met all of the 52 other people in my program I did not think I would have been super close with all of them. Began from Freiburg and went around more than half of Europe; yes this is and will probably be one of my most memorable semester of all time. I have managed to take classes that have made me think critically and can certainly say that few of the classes I have taken here have been my favorite class in the past two years of college.

Travelling around Europe had always been something I really wanted to do and now that I have managed to do it I am very nostalgic. Like I said before, I realized that we meet people get separated and then meet again. Meeting again will always be special. I have had one of the best semesters of my life and I am actually glad that it still is going on. I will leave Freiburg in 2 days and will be in the United Kingdom for few weeks before coming back to Holland Michigan. I will keep you posted on how I will react when I am actually out of Freiburg. I am very overwhelmed to say the least but I guess being from Nepal coming to Holland, leaving Holland to come to Europe, and leaving Europe for more adventures in the future makes me feel hopeful that I will cross paths with people I have met along my life.

This is the picture people in my program. I cannot imagine being away from every one of them. 


Adventures on the Roof of the World

I got back from Tibet about a week ago, but its been whirlwind of finishing my program, packing, saying goodbyes, and doing last-moment-in-China activities.  A post on this past week to follow!  But, TIBET.

This trip was the bulk of my final area’s studies class about Tibet.  There were 13 of us total, ten students, one IES staffer, one RA and our professor.  We got to Lhasa (Tibet’s biggest city) by two trains with a stopover in Xining in between.  The first train was the same as my previous Chinese overnight train experiences, but the second train is quite something.  We saw some pretty incredible panoramic views of the lakes and mountains of the Tibetan plateau.  It is built partially on permafrost, making it a huge challenge of engineering.  At its highest point the train is at over 16,000 feet above sea level.  This brings me to the less stellar part of the trip- altitude sickness.  There just wasn’t enough oxygen for my sea level lungs up there!  Thankfully I didn’t have to be hooked up to the oxygen in the train (there is a plug in for every passenger).  Definitely not a pleasant day, but by the time we arrived in Lhasa in the afternoon more or less feeling better (and we came down. 

We started our touring regimen the next day- temples, monasteries, nunneries, and hiking! I learned more than I ever thought I would about Tibetan Buddhism.  I won’t go into all of the details, but it was interesting to see people of a different religion than me that I didn’t know much about before.  One highlight was at Sera Monastery, where the monks debate with each other every afternoon, teacher with student so that they can learn and defend their beliefs on Buddhist doctrines.  The teacher is standing while the student sits, and when the student makes a point the teacher does this sort of full body clap motion, palm down for “good point” palm up for “better luck next time.”  It was so entertaining to watch!


We also did six days of camping.  It wasn’t super hardcore as we had a team of cooks with us (thus alleviating the most time consuming chore of  camping with some of the best food I have ever eaten), but it was glorious to be outside!  We visited more sights of Tibetan Buddhism, drove through the Tibetan country side, stayed with a Tibetan family, and even went to some awesome hot springs.  By far my favorite part of the trip was all of the nature that we got to see.  There were mountains everywhere we looked all the time (I’m actually not kidding).  God’s creation at its finest!  The Tibetan people are also on the whole incredibly welcoming and kind.  I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking!


Some kids we met at a village we camped at!
Classic Tibet tourist activity, yes the lake is still frozen.
Capturing memories at one of the monasteries we visited


Nothing says Family Bonding like… PEANUT BUTTER! :)

hey everyone!

It’s been awhile I know, but these last few weeks have been CRAZY! To recap what I’ve been up to… I went North, where I lived with an Aymara family for five days and worked in the fields (stay tuned for a separate post on that experience!) and after returning to Viña de Mar, I moved in with a new family a week ago! Right now I am in the midst of my Independent Research project period, where I am investigating the use of non-formal education programs in urban school settings. I love my topic, so it makes spending most of my days now working on research a little easier! Now that I kind of dictate my own schedule , I have had time to hang out and bond with my new host family! (I switched for my research period because I wanted to experience life with bigger family than I was with.) My new adopted Chilean family includes my mom, Wale, my dad, Andrés, and my siblings, Victoria (14), Benjamin (12) and Magdalena (5) and Bosco (2) (the family Great Dane!) I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming, kind, and loving family. From day 1, we instantly clicked!

I’ve only been in my new house for a week but I’ve already had some great times with the fam! This past Wednesday, all of us attended the “Día de la Familia” presentation at the school of my littlest sister. All the kindergarteners sang songs about family in English (it’s a British school) and then we headed to the school patio to enjoy lots of sweets and goodies. YUM!

Last night was the first of the weekly “Cenas Americanas” (which I have initiated, making an ‘American’ specialty once a week). This week’s special was Peanut butter toast with banana and honey! Simple, but quality peanut butter was the key! Although peanut butter DOES exist in Chile in the big name mega super markets (in small quantities), the main ingredient is hydrogenated palm oil. Yuck! (Probably why it’s not a big seller here). However, with the Natural Jif creamy peanut butter one of my best friends sent me, I was able to assemble one of my favorite post run (or anytime) snacks! The verdict from the fam: “Super rico!!! Delicioso” You would have thought I prepared a four course dinner. They said they would have never imagined such a combo! And for most of them, it was the first time they had ever tasted peanut butter. EVER! As a lifelong fan of the nutty butter, I was shocked!

chilean fam enjoying pb&b toastthe Chilean fam enjoying pb&b toast

This simple meal was turned into a documented event with pictures that captured the process and first bites. After everything they have shared with me, I’m glad my little gift of peanut butter and banana toast was well received (seconds were requested and even my littlest sister, a picky eater, said she could eat “miles” (thousands)!) Family bonded doesn’t require a five star vacation, just a little peanut butter, bread, and a willingness to share.



Chileanismo: al tiro! : Right away!.. (Contrary to its exact translation “like a shot”)

Bosco says "Hola!"Bosco, the family dog, says, “Hola!”

Morocco – a Country in Transition

Three weeks ago, I traveled with a great trip organized by my study –abroad program to Morocco. I have waited to write about it for this long so I could process the trip a bit more before sharing it with y’all. The reason it was so great was because they were very focused on us getting to know the reality of life and culture of Morocco. And that they did.
It is, by far, the furthest removed cultural experience I have had in my life. As Morocco is a developing country still ruled by a king, I knew that going in. However, in Morocco there is also a great interest in values not usually attributed to Muslim countries, such as women’s rights and general freedoms, and they seem to be transitioning in that direction quite rapidly. The many conversations we had with Moroccan students during our time that spoke that loud and clear. In Rabat, many had or have had boyfriends and girlfriends, even though one or both parents frowned upon it in most families. (And of course that come up a lot in conversations between college students :P). That was very telling for the huge generational gap that exists there.
It is also an Islamic and Islamist country. While having some of the most liberal interpretations of Islamic law to be found, it still affects daily life. In the country area we visited, one of the women explained to us that women being able to request divorce is an improvement implemented in the last ten years and that even now it still can take up to six or seven years for the divorce to get through the courts as opposed to a rich man can take almost no time at all.
The religious conservatism also led to clear conservatism in dress as well. One of the benefits of that conservatism that I had not thought about before, I experienced first had. We had the opportunity to ride camels while we were there, hosted by a camel herder that seemed to speak no English. Of course I had decided to wear my long skirt that day, so I had to kind of arrange it as I hiked up on the camel. During my very awkward dismount, he happened to grab my bare knee to steady me as the camel lowered himself. As soon as possible, he readjusted his hand so he could put cloth between my knee and his hand. That respect struck me a very agreeable, especially to someone of a culture he probably knew doesn’t value that respect as much. However, when that conservatism changes from being a form of respect to a reason for judging if someone is not following that rule (as it usually does), I find a huge issue with that. That was also quite evident there. Extremely explicit cat calling is common and as soon as I would make a simple change such as taking my hair down from a bun, I would get it even more.
It will be interesting to see that state at which Morocco ends up in the future, but in my opinion it seems to be moving in the right direction. I am still overwhelmed with the cultural beauty as well as economic disparities we saw and I’m confident I will remember the experience forever.Baby Camel!