college student

Yes, you may spit in public: Cultural Differences in Shanghai after 4 weeks

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[Photo taken on June 18th, 2015 while walking to the subway from IKEA]

It’s been two weeks since my last post(I haven’t sat down to write in a while) but I finally found time to write about a few cultural differences I’ve noticed while being here in Shanghai, China. Here are the main ones:

People are genuinely kind

For the most part, Chinese people in Shanghai tend to be kind. They smile at you, they laugh, and they help you when you ask for it. I haven’t had any issues yet(fingers crossed) but I don’t expect to either.

Chinese people are very superstitious

Often you will hear fireworks go off randomly around the city. Anytime a new store is opened, they shoot off fireworks to scare away the ghosts. The color gold is used to also scare away ghosts and “protect” certain buildings and stores. Also, the number 4 is unlucky because it is a homonym for the word death meaning it is the same word, but in a different tones in Mandarin and some other dialects of Chinese.

Spitting in public is socially acceptable

In public, common to hear people gathering up all the saliva and mucus in their mouth and then yucking it onto the street. It may be disgusting to hear and see but it’s most likely due to the air pollution that they have to eliminate all that gross stuff from their system. I

Men grow out their pinky nails to pick ear wax

I wish I had a picture to show for this but yes, some men will have long fingernails on their pinkies with the specific purpose of cleaning the earwax from their ears.

“scooterpooling” and “bikepooling” is common

Almost anywhere I go in Shanghai, I always see multiple people on scooters and bicycles. I carefully observed scooters and bikes when I’m walking and it seems as though almost all are built to hold at least two people. I personally think it’s awesome! They’re saving electricity(most scooters are electric) or just sharing a ride! I wish my bike back home had a seat on the back for someone- I’d give friends rides more often! I don’t have a picture I took but here’s one I found on Google Images so you get the idea:

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Well, hope you enjoyed the short post with a few observations about cultural differences in Shanghai! Next week, I will write about what my experience has been like teaching English! Zàijiàn!

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An adventureous night in Vancouver led by serendipity and the kindness in strangers

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As we started approaching customs, the short time frame I had to decide whether or not I wanted to start a conversation with these two strangers was coming to an end. It was now, or never. I took a deep breath and asked the simple question, “How far is the airport from downtown?”

Before I continue to explain how this one moment carved the path leading up to a night of several serendipitous events, I should start from the beginning.

Two weeks ago on May 24th, 2015, I was leaving from LAX Airport and flying to Shanghai, China with a 13-hour layover in Vancouver, Canada. After eating dinner in the airport, I headed towards my gate. When I neared the gate, I scanned the area to find a place to sit. Two blonde girls that appeared to be my age or slightly older were sitting and chatting. I noticed a few open seats in the row across from them and decided that if I sat there, I might make a few friends.

I dropped my bags and sat down. The conversation between the two girls seemed to have faded as they both were reading when I looked up from my seat. I decided to join the reading party and pulled out the intriguing book I was currently reading called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts(*I highly recommend it! It’s about a man who escaped from prison in Australia, fled to India and worked in the slums, black market, and fought in the war. True story).

A significant amount of time passed and the reading party continued. Then the Air Canada desk attendant announced over the loudspeaker,”Any foreign passengers that are not Canadian citizens must come up to fill out a form before boarding the plane.” I pulled my nose out of my book and realized the message was directed at me, as non-Canadian citizen. I went up, grabbed a form, then returned to my seat and proceeded to fill it out.

“Sir? Excuse me.” The younger-looking blonde girl with the tattoo of a feather behind her ear who was sitting directly across from me asked in a tone that voiced her doubtfulness with choice of “sir” to address me.

I looked up with my own form of uncertainty. “Is she calling me sir?” I chuckled to myself in my head. My choice of attire most likely influenced her word choice. I wore brown dress shoes, simple khakis with a brown belt and an azure-colored polo tucked in.

Once we made eye contact, she continued, “What is that you’re filling out?”

“This? Oh, it’s for U.S…” I stopped short.

“Citizens?”

“Yes” I laughed.

“Oh, okay good.” She said smiling back.

A sign of relief washed across their faces. I assumed they must be Canadian so they didn’t need to fill out the form.

Both parties returned to reading their novels. A few minutes later, I overheard the other blonde girl say to her friend, “Sir is a little bit formal.” I smiled, looked up at them and chuckled, “Yeah, it was a little formal but I guess I’m not sure what else you would use?”

They laughed. The blonde girl in front of me added, “Yeah, ‘dude’ or ‘guy’ would have been weird.” I smiled and laughed. That was the extent of our conversation before we boarded the plane. Unfortunately, I didn’t sit next to them on the plane either. However, the first serendipitous moment happened soon after.

During the 3 hour flight from LA to Vancouver, I simply minded my own business and read. The two older women next to me both put in headphones either to prevent any conversation between us or to create a white noise to ease resting during the flight.

When the flight landed around 10:45pm, I realized I was going to be spending the next 13 hours in the Vancouver Airport…I thought maybe if the city were close enough, I would go exploring but the research I had done prior to flying was so preliminary that I felt uncertain whether it would be a good idea or not to leave the airport. I certainly didn’t want to risk missing my flight.

Since I figured I would be spending the next several hours in the airport, I decided to take my time getting off the plane. The combination of not being in a rush to make a connecting flight or go anywhere, plus the fact that my large backpack was in the overhead compartment and would take a good amount of time to take down convinced me to wait until a large amount of people had exited the plane before I get off.

While waiting for a gap in the line off the plane, the two Canadian girls I had spoken to briefly smiled  and said bye as they walked past me. Then, the gap I had been waiting to seize appeared. I took advantage of it. I loaded my large blue 48L Osprey backpack on my back and my medium-sized black 25L REI backpack on front then exited the plane.

And this is where the story picks up from where it started. I was about 5 feet or so behind the two Canadian girls- just enough to be able to start up a conversation.

The two girls looked back at me and the other one who I had not spoken much to said, “Downtown? It’s not too far. You can take the Canada line straight there (similar to a light rail). It might take 30 minutes or so.” My simple question broke the dam created by society stating that we “should not talk to strangers” and a river of conversation finally flowed out.

I learned that their names were Katie and Kelsi and they had spent the weekend in California for fun. They went to Disneyland, the beach and had a wonderful time. Both were 22 years old and studying at a university in Vancouver. Katie was undecided and Kelsi studied sports sciences.

Before reaching customs, they both convinced me to take advantage of my layover as an opportunity to explore downtown Vancouver. We stayed together, chatting through customs till I went to the kiosk to scan my passport and realized I had ended up in the line for Canadian citizens.

I hurried over to the line for foreigners then proceeded to the customs agent when a window was available. After lots of intimidating questions such as why I’m in canada, where I’ll be staying, who’s paying for it, etc. I entered into the great country of Canada.

Not sure where to find the Canada line or even what to do downtown, I sat down near baggage claim and attempted to find a wifi network to connect to. Unfortunately, none of them were unlocked or free so I sat there looking a little helpless. Lucky for me, Katie and Kelsi grabbed their bags and then offered to help me.

They walked with me over to the storage center then offered to walk me to the Canada line upstairs. They wrote directions to arrive downtown via the Canada line on an old receipt from a Nike outlet store. I told them I could figure it out with the directions they gave me then hugged them and said goodbye. The fact that they were total strangers yet demonstrated the kindness of a friendship  that had lasted for years amazed me. I felt extremely grateful for their help and the serendipity of the situation.

From there on, the serendipitous moments continued as if someone had planned the entire night for me.

I took the escalator up to the Canada line and went to the machines to buy my ticket. Not sure exactly how much fare to purchase to get downtown, I stood in front of the machine for about two minutes before a kind man in a green vest approached me.

“Are ye lost?” he asked me in his thick Canadian accent. I told him I wanted to go downtown. He told me exactly what stop to get off and even handed me a map. At this point, I think to myself, “Gosh, the Canadians are so friendly. I should just stay here.”

I got off at the City Centre station nearby and found myself in downtown Vancouver with no plans or knowledge of the city.

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I started walking down a street that looked busy and found myself a small pizza shop that sold slices for $2.75. I bought a supreme slice, sat down at a table and munched away that evening’s dinner. Luckily, there was wifi so I could look up places to go. At first, I decided to google pubs and bars in Vancouver but then I thought, “Why am I sitting here on my phone when I could easily ask someone or just go to a random bar see what happens?” I finished my slice of pizza and headed out to continue the night’s adventure.

I recalled Katie and Kelsi mentioning a bar called the Roxy somewhere downtown. I wasn’t sure exactly where it was so I just decided to walk down the street and see what I could find. I went down once then went back up the same street and decided on a place called The Roxyburger. The outside patio was full of people drinking beer and chatting. Inside, there was a bar and tables where people were eating food. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer. I laughed to myself and thought, “Okay, I’m here but now what? How does one go about meeting people without intruding on a group?” I sat there for a good 15 minutes, people watching and enjoying not knowing how the night would unfold. A guy and a girl came up to the bar and looked over at me momentarily. They were ordering shots I guessed and the bartender told them to move over to the empty seat next to me. He poured them two shots of an alcohol that I didn’t recognize.

“Have you ever tried a buttery nipple?” The girl turned and asked me.

I was startled for a second then laughed and replied, “No, what’s that?”

“It’s sweet. They’re really good. Take one with us! We’ll wait for you!”

I thought, “Ah, sure, why not.” I ordered one, took the shot with them and then said, “That wasn’t too bad.”

“Yeah, we like them,” the girl replied as they started to get up to return to their table outside.

“Hey, could I join you two? I’m here because I have a layover and obviously don’t know anyone.” I laughed in self-pity.

“Of course you can! We’ll introduce you to our friends!” The girl replied and the guy smiled at me.

And then, the next section in the night began. The girl’s name was Emily and she was from Oregon. She had traveled from Oregon with two friends to see Milky Chance in Vancouver and they decided to stay in Vancouver for a little. The guy’s name was Daniel and he was from Australia. He was traveling in Canada for a little. They introduced me to the rest of their group which included a few Germans, a few Australians and a few Canadians. Everyone was between 21 and 25 and very friendly and welcoming! They referred to me as “Joe from Arizona” or with a few, just “Arizona,” which I found rather amusing.

I chatted and hung out with them for a while before a group of Canadian guys in college from Manitoba, Canada who knew Emily, invited us to go on an unofficial pub crawl with them. We all agreed to go and then we headed out. In total, there was about 12 of us.

One guy that stood out the most from the group was named Brady. He was Emily’s friend and from Oregon. We connected really well. He was friendly, genuine and outgoing. He studied photography at a small college in Oregon and was the one who bought the tickets to see Milky Chance. Emily, and her friend Peyton, both had known Brady since high school and asked if they could go to the convert with him. At each of the two bars we went to, he offered to buy me a drink and then we had an interesting conversation about who we were and why we did the things we did.

Around 3:15am, the group of international travelers I had been spending most of the night with decided to head home. Brady offered for me to stay the night at their hostel but then remembered they checked everyone’s keys so unfortunately, that wasn’t an option. I said my goodbyes and then remained at the bar till about 3:30am when they kicked everyone at. A server at the bar gave me directions back to the Canada line station but said it wouldn’t start running again till 5 or 6am.

Out of plans and ideas, I decided to walk back to the station anyway and figure out a plan there.

When I got there, the gates were locked and it was closed, just as the server had warned me. I sat on a bench and contemplated my options. Well, it was dark near the station and I didn’t know if the area was dangerous so I decided to head back towards the pizza place and the Roxyburger.

On my way back, I peeked my head into the Burger King that was still open. “Should I go in, order food and just hang out?” I contemplated to myself. I decided not to, thankfully, and headed to the pizza shop.

I was in luck. It was still open.

“Hey look, it’s the guy from Best Buy,” one guy joked as I got in line for pizza. I then realized there were no longer serving pizza. A girl and a guy, who looked to be my age, started talking to me. They both wanted pizza and asked if I wanted to join them to buy pizza somewhere. They didn’t seem to be dangerous or suspicious and the guy who joked about me working for Best Buy was with them so I said “Sure, why not?”

We walked up and down the streets looking for restaurants still open at 4am in the morning on a Sunday. They asked me why I was there, what I was doing, etc. and we made small talk. They were all friendly and seemed like genuine individuals. Their names were Jordan, Morgan, and Ivo and they were all 23 years old. I told them I had never been to Vancouver before, let alone Canada and then told me they would take me to the best spots and hang out with me until the Canada line opened back up.

The only food place we found was a 7/11 that serves taquitos- you know, the ones you think “Hmm, those could be good” but then you second guess yourself and say, “No, what am I thinking. Who knows how long those have been out?” Well, that was the only hot food available so I bought two. They weren’t delicious but they did the job and kept my hunger at bay.

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They brought me to Yaletown, which is this pier with lots of large yachts and boats. We sat down and talked about life until about 6am when the station opened back up. Ivo even offered to take the Canada line with me to the airport to make sure that I returned with no problems. After having talked about culture, he also offered to introduce me to ice caps which is a coffee slushie that he said was really popular in Canada, or at least Vancouver.

I said goodbye to Ivo and thanked him for helping me. Then grabbed my bags and curled open on the ground to take a 4 hour nap before heading to my gate around 10am. As I lay there and reran the route of the all-nighter in Vancouver, I realized the night took itself in directions I could never have imagined. I feel extreme gratitude for the kindness all those I encountered treated me with during my long adventure in Vancouver. It reminds me that there are lots of good people out there in the world and one of best thing we can do to make sure those good people don’t disappear is to be kind to all.

Life reveals her inner beauty when you simply surrender the desire to control her and you let her sail you which ever way she decides to blow the wind.

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Update: To make this story even crazier, the guy I met named Brady is a dating a girl who went to high school in Oregon with one of my really close friends at the University of Arizona. The world is so big yet it’s so small.

Back from Summer 2014 Adventures

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[Photo taken near Jackson, Wyoming]

Wow! The summer has been extremely busy and I’ve only had a short break! I’m already back on the road of life onto my next chapter. Ecuador and the Galapagos were amazed and I have stories and pictures to share soon! I also enjoyed visiting Utah and Wyoming. They’re both full of beautiful landscapes and friendly people.

Right now, I’m currently in the midst of resident assistant training at my university, which is why I unfortunately don’t have the time to write about my adventures this week. I’ll go back to posting once a week but I may not be able to upload the pictures from my trip and write the stories in detail until the end of August or beginning of September but don’t worry, I’ve got exciting stories and interesting lessons I learned to share with you soon! Stay tuned!

Volunteering, zip-lining, rafting, hiking, snorkeling and surfing with highschoolers in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands this summer

wilderness ventures[Photo from Wilderness Ventures website]

Two trips in Ecuador, high schoolers, volunteering at an animal rescue center, zip-lining in the Pastaza Valley, rafting down the Rio Jatunyaco river and hiking, snorkeling, and surfing on the Galapagos Islands. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world! All of this is and more is going to be my summer and I still cannot believe it.

I decided to write this post to share the information about what I’ll be doing this summer because maybe it’s something you’d be interested in doing too!

“How are you even going to be doing all of this?”

With a wonderful organization called Wilderness Ventures! Founded in 1973, Wilderness Ventures combines “[their] love for teaching young adults with [their] passion for the American wilderness and adventure.” Since then, it “has grown slowly and steadily and by 2013 over 22,000 people had participated in programs conducted in over 20 national parks and 17 federally designated wilderness areas as well as in over 20 countries around the globe.”

“But wait a second, how’d you even hear about this?”

I heard about Wilderness Ventures by accident. I remember last summer scrolling through my news feed when I came across a picture of a high school friend, a year older than me, mentioning he was going to meet up with friends in Europe. Curiosity drew me in further so I went to his profile to see what he was up to. Then, the next thing I saw was a tagged picture of him with a group of teenagers.

“Huh, I wonder what that was for. Wait a second, it says they were in Spain? Why would Cole be in Spain with a group of teenagers?”

By chance, his sister was hanging out with my brother at my house and I asked her about it. She said some organization paid him to take people camping in Spain and Peru. “WOW! Paid? To Travel? Where do I sign up?” was my initial reaction.

Soon after, I messaged him, found out the name of the organization and then found myself here, reading about the application. I went back to the application in December, filled out and turned it in by the January deadline.

“Do you have to speak Spanish to go…? What are the requirements? What was the application like?”

The only requirement is that you’re 20 years of age. The application was long and consisted of a resume, personal statement, 3 reference letters, driving record information, and a few photos. After turning it in, I later had an interview in February by phone which lasted about 20-30 minutes where I was asked questions about my application(typical interview questions).

Then, about a week later, they hired me! I didn’t find out about where I would be going until this week and I couldn’t be more excited with my trip assignments!

“When do you leave and will you be gone all summer?”

I leave June 7th to go to Salt Lake City, Utah to get certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR at the University of Utah. The class is free thanks to Wilderness Ventures. Then, on June 10th, I have to head back to the airport and then I’ll be heading to Jackson, Wyoming, the headquarters of Wilderness Ventures. Afterwards, we begin training with all the leaders, new and returning, which last 10 days. Then, we’re sent to our trip destinations! I’ll be leading the same two-week Ecuador Galapagos Service trip twice.  Afterwards, I’ll return to Jackson to do reflection workshops and then head back to Salt Lake City on August 1st.

“What do you have to pay for?”

The only things I have to pay for are transportation to and from Utah, and housing and food for the first three nights I’m in Utah because I’m taking the Wilderness First Aid class. Everything else including food, lodging, activities and transportation are paid by the organization. On top of that, they pay first-year leaders between $1,400-1,900.

“Where can I find out more information?”

Here is a link to more about leading for Wilderness Ventures and also this link to their employment opportunities website.

 

20,000 miles by motorbike, 10,874 miles by bicycle and now over 7,000 by VW bus

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10 months. 20,000 miles. Santiago, Chile to San Francisco, California on a motorbike. I met Duncan Stokoe, a 23-year old from England, during his journey last year while he was passing through Arizona. By chance, I happened to be diddling around Couchsurfing and found his post about looking for a place to crash in Arizona. I immediately emailed him offering up my dorm room. Luckily, a friend loaned me their air mattress and he slept in my dorm for a night. I gave him a tour of the university and we hung out in my dorm room with my roommate Chris. He told us some of the wildest stories like accidentally hanging out with drug cartel members in Ecuador and working on a ferry selling bananas between Colombia and Panama. Unfortunately, I had a few exams that week so he didn’t stay longer. He was one of the kindest people I ever met and extremely grateful for being able to stay there. After he left, he added me to an email list of people he had met along the way to keep us updated on his trip. In March of 2013, he arrived in San Francisco and completed his trip.

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Fortunate for him, the traveling didn’t stop there. On March 23rd, he flew to London to spend a day catching up with his family and then traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to begin another journey- cycling from Cape Town to Trafalgar Square in London, England. 17,500km(10,874 miles) on a bicycle.  Again, he sent out emails to the people he had met along the way and kept us updated on his trip.

duncan stokoe

During his journey, he said that one of the highlights was, “Seeing wildlife on the bike is pretty cool – so far I’ve seen oryx, zebras, monkeys, ostrich, an amazing herd of springbok that I chased for about 10 minutes before they turned and came sprinting either side of me, and an amusing stand off with a warthog.” He also included a highlight as, “be allowed to stay at a friend of a friend’s game reserve in Namibia. Spending two days driving round with the farm hand ended up turning into my own private two day safari with the highlight easily being getting to feed the rhinos at the end (see photo 3) – slightly nervous as i stand between a fast approaching 3 ton rhino and his dinner.”

duncan stokoe feeding a rhino

I remember seeing this for the first time and saying to myself, “WOW! Wouldn’t that be cool? To see this animals in the wildlife instead of at a zoo?” He finished this journey on December 22nd, 2013, just in time for Christmas! Now, I bet you can guess what he’s doing- another adventure! This time, he’s traveling with a group from Chile to Alaska in a VW van. Click on the link to like their page on Facebook and follow along with them! After hearing about Duncan’s adventures in person and by email, he’s truly inspired me and motivated me to want to explore the world in a different way. I chose to share his story this week because I hope it inspires you the way it inspired me. It’s fascinating to consider all of the places we can travel in the world. All we need is the drive and motivation to do it. The world is our oyster and it’s up to us to take advantage of it. I hope you enjoyed reading about Duncan’s story! Please share this with others who you think might enjoy it 🙂 ###

Why it’s important to never forget being a kid


Molino Basin Tucson Arizona[Photo from top of a mountain near our campground at Molino Basin]

This past weekend, I attended my first camp with an organization called Camp Wildcat and it made me realize something- I forgot what it was like to be a kid.

In my opinion, society tells us to grow up and learn to be mature as soon as possible. For me, that meant right around freshman year. I still acted immature obviously but that’s what I feel like I was told to start acting older because soon I would be an adult.

Now, I’m a second-year college student and after going camping with Camp Wildcat, I feel like everything is so serious. I am 20 years old and I am an “adult.” I have to act “formal” and “appropriate” just about all the time.

I’m not saying that it’s detrimental for society to expect us to act like  adults(we should, for the most part) but if society never gives us room to act like kids, then it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be one. If we reflect back on being a kid, we can remind ourselves of important life lessons that we shouldn’t lose sight of. Camp Wildcat was the catalyst that I needed to remind me what it was like to be a kid and here a few lessons I learned after reflecting back on my experience from this weekend:

Don’t afraid to losen up and be silly

After high school(and usually during high school), we’re taught to be serious and appropriate all the time that we forget to act silly and losen up. At least for me, I know I forget to be silly sometimes and the activities at Camp Wildcat reminded me to let go and have fun.

One of my favorite parts was the reactions we gave to the “skits” performed by different groups based on movies and expressions. In between activities, different groups would perform skits of random things and afterwords, the directors would ask what we thought about the skit. We responded with either some sort of expression or movie reference. My favorite was called the James Franco which was a Spiderman 3 reference from a scene where James Franco is eating pie. The waitress asks how it is and he responds, “So good.” We’d choose one like James Franco and then in unison say, “SOOO good.” They were all silly like that and it was a lot of fun. Overall, it just reminded me to have fun and losen up.

Don’t let your creativity and imagination ever die

Similar to the idea of always being “serious,” we sometimes find ourselves in positions where we aren’t asked to use our creativity and/or imagination. Yes, sometimes a project or homework assignment will have an unexpected turn and we have to be creative their but what I really mean is using your creativity and imagination on it’s own like an art.

A large part of the camp was performing “skits.” All camps have themes and this one that I went to over the weekend was themed Camp Disney so as you can imagine, everything revolved around Disney. Before eating a meal, the counselors made each group perform a skit with another group before they could receive their word. These skits forced us to be creative and use our imaginations.  The experience reminded me that I shouldn’t ever let my creativity and imagination die out.

Never stop wishing, dreaming and believing

This lesson is one that I believe is the most important- never giving up on your dreams, wishes, and beliefs. There are several times when society tells us to settle for a job that pays enough to start a family, start a family and live your life until you die and that’s it. Period. People tell you not to have dreams to high because you might not accomplish them or make them come true. I say that’s bologna!

At the conclusion of Camp Wildcat on Sunday morning, we did an activity called Wish Bracelets. The way it works is you and another person get together a make wish bracelets for each other with the provided string. But wait! There’s a special process:

1st- you make a wish for the other person and tie a knot and they make one for you and tie a knot

2nd- you make a wish for yourself and tie a knot and they do the same

3rd- you make a wish for the world and tie a knot and they do the same

Then you tie it in on their wrist and they tie one on yours and you two finish with a hug. You can make as many bracelets as you want too!

It’s a warm and loving activity and awakens that fuzzy feeling inside your stomach that makes you feel good.  The activity in general is fantastic because the point is to make you think about what you care about the world and reminds you to always think about others(and yourself)!

Just remember this- even though we’re told to be serious the majority of the time in life, we shouldn’t ever forget what it’s like to be a kid 🙂

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*Side note about Camp Wildcat:
“Camp Wildcat is a student-run, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization at the University of Arizona devoted to improving the lives of Tucson’s youth. Over 100 dedicated volunteers provide cost-free activities for fun, friendship and to portray college as an attainable goal for everyone!”

A look at-The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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[Photo of photographer Sean O’Connell from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty]

“To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed.”

On Monday, my girlfriend and I celebrated our two-year anniversary together and went to the movies to see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Here’s a link to the trailer if you haven’t already seen or heard of it. Also, here’s a link to download the free audiobook.

Basically, it’s about an average guy who works at LIFE Magazine and works with the photographers and maintaining the negative reels. He is interested in dating a new girl at the office but is too nervous to talk to her so he creates an account on eHarmony and ends up realizing that he really hasn’t done or seen anything “noteworthy” in his life. He’s always daydreaming about doing insane things like jumping through the window of a burning building or climbing Mt. Everest but he never does them. Then, one day, he decides to do something different and listen to the girl at the office who he’s interested in and he goes after one of the photographers in Greenland to find a missing negative.

The reason I wanted to share this movie on my blog is because I think the motto for the magazine(above) and the whole concept of the movie is galvanizing and makes you want to jump out of a helicopter or climb Mt. Everest or do something crazy and adventurous. The coolest part is that his life changes after a spontaneous decision to pursue one of the LIFE photographers in Greenland. He’s an average guy who buys a one-way plane ticket impromptu and just goes. The only thing he brings with him is a briefcase.

I’ve have said this before but I think we sometimes feel stressed out when thinking about how much planning should go into a trip such as one to Greenland and we let that hold us back from traveling or even doing adventurous things. Even though it is a movie and in movies, everything goes as “planned,” I feel more inspired to leave my comfort zone and do more things spontaneously because then I have no idea how the adventure will unfold and that excites me!

Whether you’ve thought about taking an adventure or not, I think you should go see Walter Mitty because it’s a great movie and maybe it will motivate you to do something you never thought you’d do. I want to repeat this quote one more time because I think it fits as one of the many answers to the question “What is the purpose of life?”

“To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed.”

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Reflection on Study Abroad in Buenos Aires: Lessons Learned

joe previte sitting on a mountani in mendoza argentinaI am finally back in Arizona and couldn’t be happier to see my family and friends. I’ve really missed the beautiful desert and the amazing scenery that surrounds me here in Phoenix. After living in the metropolis Buenos Aires for almost six months, I appreciate the suburbs and the proximity to mountains and desert more than ever. Now that I’m back, I’ve had a chance to look over my journal and review a few of the lessons I’ve learned from studying abroad and living in Buenos Aires for the semester. I’ve highlighted the most important ones I’ve taken away from my trip below:

Focus on the now

I didn’t realize it before but I’m the type of the person who is always thinking about the future. I’m always planning what I’m going to do next weekend, next semester, next summer, etc. I like to plan because it’s fun. It’s exciting to pump myself up of the fact that I’m spending the weekend in California with my family or visiting my friends but what I didn’t realize was that thinking about the future can and does take away from the present. If I’m constantly thinking about what I’m going to do next, how can I enjoy what I’m doing now? What I’ve learned to do is to plan whatever I need to plan and then push that thought away so that it can’t consume the attention I should be paying on the present. It can be difficult at times but I think it’s important and I’m trying focusing on the now, now and the later when it comes.

There is no need to rush

I learned that I sometimes put myself in situations where I rush myself to complete 500 tasks in one sitting. This kind of has to do with “having too much on my plate,” which I’ll explain more later but the idea is to slow down sometimes. I think I’ve taken the idea of relaxing a little and not rushing from being immersed in the Argentine culture while abroad. I mentioned this in a blog post but I’ll say it again- from my experience, Argentinians don’t rush. They don’t know when the bus is coming or the subway, it’s okay if someone isn’t right on time, and lunch/dinner/dates/meeting up with friends may last three hours. I realized this last semester when I completed a course assignment where I tracked how I spent my time during the week and learned that I rushed myself every time I ate breakfast, lunch or dinner.  There is no need to rush though. I don’t need to be watching a movie for homework, or reading an article or doing SOMETHING every time I’m eating. Instead, I’ve learned to hit the brakes and take my time when eating a meal, having a conversation with a friend or simply getting ready in the morning.  There’s a Chinese proverb I read in a book I’m reading called The Three Pillers of Zen that says, “Eat when you eat. Walk when you walk.” I try to always remind myself of it when I feel the desire to multitask or speed up things. It’s true. No one ever said you had to rush yourself. However, I try to do too many things at once or put much on my plate, I’m going to find myself scrambling and stressing out, which simply isn’t necessary nor healthy for me.

It’s not always good to have a “full plate”

I mentioned this idea earlier but I wanted to touch back on it because it’s an important lesson I’ve learned. It’s not always the best idea to have several commitments in your life. This didn’t hit me until I realized that I simply didn’t have time to work, study, volunteer and invest in the culture and language in Argentina. Yes, I needed to work because I needed money. Yes, my main priority was to study but I didn’t have a balance at first. I wanted to practice my Spanish all day, every day but also work and have money to spend while abroad but I felt overwhelmed. I’ve realized that if I do all of these things, then I have to sacrifice other areas- like spending time with friends and investing in friendships. If I’m spending 90% of my time studying and working and only 10% with my friends, then I’m not going to be able to become close with my friends. I now know that I shouldn’t try and cover my plate without first thinking about how it will affect the rest of the time I have and how else I’d like to spend my time. Overall, I’ve learned to not commit to more activities than I can handle while still being able to maintain and invest in friendships.

It’s better to have 1 close friend than 10 acquaintances

I had never really considered this until this trip. I’ve always had acquaintances and friends who I’ve hung out with a few times but I never thought about the level of friendship I have with people. I met really amazing people in Argentina but didn’t spend as much time with them as I wish I would have. Yes, I was busy but of course I could have made time- I just didn’t. I realized at the end of the trip that I can meet people once or hangout with them a few times but if I don’t invest into the friendship and make sacrifices to see them and get to know them that they won’t last. For me, I’d rather have a close group of friends that I know well who I enjoy spending time with and who enjoy spending time with me rather than acquaintances who I only know on a shallow level.

Life is beautiful outside

One of the best wake-up calls I received during this trip was the idea that life is beautiful outside. I remember as a kid, watching commercials or PSAs where a kid sits on a couch and watches another kid playing outside and then it pans out and the exact same tree is outside his house yet he decides to watch it on TV instead of going outside to play. Being the type of person that loves playing sports, I never considered the idea that maybe I spend too much time on the computer or inside. However, after becoming friends with a girl named Allie through my girlfriend, I realized I do spend most of my time on the computer and that I’m missing out on the world outside. As much as I love technology and learning on the internet, I don’t want to spend the majority of my day sitting in front of a screen when I should be outside enjoying life and nature and all the wonderful things and people.

The future doesn’t need to be set in stone

Last lesson that I learned is that the future doesn’t need to be set in stone just yet. By that mean, I don’t have to have my life figured out or know exactly what I want to do for a living after I graduate. I remember hearing that when you go abroad for an extended period of time, you figure out what you really are passionate about in life and how you should spend the rest of your life but I still feel ambivalent about the path I want to take. With this trip though, I’ve learned that I don’t need to know yet and there is absolutely no reason to stress right now. All I want to do is focus on dabbling in various fields to figure out where I’ll be the happiest.

Well, that’s it for this post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that you’re convinced to study abroad or at least live abroad. I believe that it’s something everyone should do. Not just for themselves, but to learn, explore, and grow.

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134 days down, 12 to go: Observations from Salta and Jujuy

purmamarca jujuy argentina un pueblo chico

 

[Photo of Purmamarca, Jujuy, Argentina. Population in 2001: 2,089]

WOW! Time really does fly when you’re having a great time and boy have these four and a half months flown by. I can’t believe I only have 12 days left here and then I’ll be back in Arizona. I have mixed feelings-sad to leave the culture, the friends I’ve made, and the language here but excited to see my friends, family and return to my life in Arizona.

This week’s post is about a few observations I made while visiting Salta(the capital city of Salta) and Jujuy(San Salvador de Jujuy and Purmamarca-two provinces in the North.

Foreigners stick out more

While in San Salvador de Jujuy, with of population of over 230,000 people, we definitely caught a lot of attention. Since Jujuy is farther North and has a warmer climate, the people tend to have darker skin. As a result, we stuck out like a sore thumb. A group of men even decided to call us out by yelling, “GRIIIIIIINNGGOOOOOS!” from across the street. I felt a little intimidated but got over it since I’m used to people staring at me in Buenos Aires because I’m a foreigner.

They´re more formal in the Northern provinces

The people tended to use usted, which is the formal word for “you” whereas in Buenos Aires, almost everyone uses vos, the informal word for “you.” I’ve heard that they use vos for everyone in the Capital because the don’t believe they should put someone higher than themselves for age, occupation, etc.

The people are friendlier than in Buenos Aires(The capital)

Whenever we needed help or bought something at a store and left, they people were always 10x friendlier. Instead of just chau, hasta luego(bye, see you later), most people also included something along the lines of qué les vaya bien(similar to the way we use “have a nice day”).

The “ll” sounded less like “sha” and more like “jah”

I was told this before but didn’t realize how different it sounded til I heard it in person. In Buenos Aires(the capital), the people usually pronounce the “ll” like a “sha” but in the North, people pronounced it like a “jah.”

Well, that’s it! Hope you enjoyed! Feel free to leave any thoughts or comments below! 🙂

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13 Weeks: Language Differences

Just passed the 13 week mark for time spent living in Buenos Aires. I have about 60 days left before I come home. It sounds like a lot but it feels like it’ll be here tomorrow. In this post, I want to share a few differences I’ve noticed about the Spanish language from being immersed in it and the culture these past three months.

Spanish syllables are sometimes more than one syllable

I realized this when I tried to pronounce the name of one of the largest oil companies in Argentine, YPF. At first I pronounced it like I would pronunce an English acronym- by the letters(in Spanish, of course), which sounds like igriega-pe-efe. Then I thought to myself, “Why is it that in English we can pronounce acronyms so much faster?” I said the alphabet in my head and realized, “Oh! In English, all the letters in the alphabet are more syllable, except for w.” I had never considered before but I found it fascinating afterwards.

Matafuego, paraguas, and parabrisas are constructed similarly

These words mean “fire extinguisher,” “umbrella,” and “windshield.” What amuses me is these words are put together in Spanish.

  • matafuego can be thought of as mata, which means “kill,” plus fuego, which means “fire” So it’s like you’re saying, ” the thing that kills the fire.”
  • paraguas and parabrisas can be thought of the same way- para means “stop” plus agua, which means “water” gives you, “the thing that stops water” and brisa means “wind” or altogether, “the thing that stops wind.”

Even though in English, you could say the same thing about “fire extinguisher” and “windshield,” the words in Spanish stuck out more because the verbs matar and parar seem to be more commonly used in Spanish than the words “extinguish” and “shield” in English.  Also, I might add that I’m more attentive  when it comes to learning words in Spanish than in English because I learned Spanish from scratch.

That’s it for this post! Feel free to add any thoughts or comments below! 🙂