Tag Archives: travel

Goodbye Ireland!

Originally written on 16 May, 2016, as I was leaving Ireland:

collage_207

Just a few of the amazing places I’ve been…

What’s the word for “goodbye”, “I’ll be back”, “I’m already missing here”, “thanks for all the memories”, and “I fell in love with this place”? I’m having trouble finding one!
Ireland has been an amazing place to spend four months, and I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to come, study, and travel from Dublin. The people – even strangers – have been so loving and generous. I’ve made wonderful, amazing friends who I love and will miss terribly. The natural beauty is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Ireland’s history is amazing and I feel so fortunate to have witnessed the 1916 centennial, visited museums, and participated in the census.
At times, time passed very slowly. I didn’t always liked my professors and missed people back home. But looking back, the time has passed so fast. I can’t believe it’s time to go, and wish I could stay longer. There are so many places I would love to see, and things I would love to do still, especially around Ireland.
Getting to Dublin was much more difficult than some other people coming here, or other places abroad. My friend Macy (not her real name) who came with me from Gordon applied with me, and it was a tough process. We had to petition to come to Ireland, since Gordon didn’t already have a programme set up – so we had to make sure credits would transfer, confirm UCD was safe, etc. etc. – all to say that process wasn’t easy. But I don’t regret that process; it was all worth it.
I have so many mixed emotions as I go; I’m not sure exactly what I feel. I’ve felt this way before: leaving China after 6 weeks (I think it was 6!), Gordon, sleep-away camp… but those were usually for shorter periods of time or about the same, and I always knew I would be back. In Ireland, my stay was comparatively much longer, and farther away, and I’m not sure the next time I will be back in this beautiful country.
Despite the uncertainties, I do know for certain: My heart will always have a place here. Thanks for everything.

wicklow

The grass is actually greener here.

P.S. If you are ever studying in or travelling to Ireland (especially Dublin) on holiday or travel and need some tips, I would love to be of help! Send me a message or comment below! ūüôā

Advertisements

Little Fish, Big Pond

I have a lot of post drafts on this blog. Some go back a long way, but others not so much. I feel like I want to say something, but I’m not exactly sure what or how. But since it’s March, I’m in Dublin, and I’m a girl meeting the world (not¬†just America and China), I figured I’d publish something! (I’m not going to post it all in one go, rather I will spread the posts out over time.)

For those who keep up with me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve been posting a lot about travels – Dublin, Belfast, London, etc. while studying at University College Dublin (UCD). So I figured while I’m at it, I might as well document it here, for you! I will also be posting some hints and tips for you – especially my fellow study abroad-ers.

UCD.dorm

My room at UCD

The semester at UCD began at the end of January. I got into an on-campus apartment (Belgrove – super nice! Definitely would recommend), I¬†have gotten somewhat acquainted with the campus. UCD is a big school, so it’s impossible to know everything, everywhere – but transportation has been essential – more on that later. It technically still is in Dublin (after all: University College¬†Dublin), but it’s a bit farther from the city centre than I thought. I did a little research about how to get to the airport to UCD: turns out, there is a bus that goes straight from the airport to UCD! Perfect! It’s called AirCoach (tickets can be purchased at the airport and online), and it’s a bit of a ride, but it’s comfortable and direct!

As someone from Gordon College, a small school just north of Boston, I have to say UCD is very different. For starters, UCD has a population of about 32,000 students. That’s¬†30,000¬†more than Gordon! So yeah, little fish in a big pond. But I like more than the on-campus Starbucks. Travel, new friends, different cultures… I’m excited for what’s to come!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” -Anonymous

Taiwan: Chinatown Island

Remember how I wrote about Christmas in China last year? It’s a little d√©j√†¬†vu-ey to be writing about being back in China over my winter break again, especially when I didn’t think I would be. (More on that later.) A little bit of Chinese history, to get us started. Before the 17th century, it was mainly inhabited by Chinese aborigines, so it’s got a bit of history all its own. However, in the 20th century Taiwan changed: it was relatively unaffected¬†by the political movements of the Communist Revolution, but it received a lot of the Chinese that decided to move¬†out. In fact, it is actually free from communist rule.¬†If you visit Taiwan today, you’ll find a lot of ‘traditional’ Chinese culture that was brought over and preserved. They were¬†allowed freedom, in a sense, to do their thing without a government and rule in flux. Kinda like an island of Chinatown, minus the fortune cookies, and plus 100% authentic food… Chinatown Island?¬†Well,¬†it’s not¬†that simple. There is still a tension between mainland China and the islands of Taiwan, and if you’re a history buff¬†like¬†me, go read more about it yourself! However, for my purposes right now, Taiwan will be very much like¬†China¬†and¬†Taiwan is¬†one¬†island. My point is, Taiwan has preserved some traditions of China in different ways. This is fantastic for: the lNight marketanguage, the sights, and (of course) the food. Disclaimer: while very Chinese, Taiwan also has a¬†Japanese influence – see Taiwan history for why that is. Don’t worry: it’s not too much,¬†just enough for you to get Japanese translations and eat good sushi at¬†the Night Market. ūüėČ

Now for a little geography! Taiwan is on the map for the Ring of Fire Рthat is, riding along the tectonic plates that continually rub against each other, creating mountains and valleys (depending on how they rub). For Taiwan, that has resulted in beautiful mountain ranges. Yesterday, I went and saw some. They are GORGEOUS. Yes, the water really is that color!

Hualian coast

While I have been to mountainous areas of China, I could never seem to create¬†in my mind the depictions of mountain ranges that Chinese¬†paintings do. Going here helped me¬†fill in the gaps.The pictures don’t do these views¬†justice.¬†I wish you could see these for yourself, they really are amazing!

You might be wondering: “What are you doing in Taiwan?” Well, you probably aren’t. But just in case you were, I’m here with my mom for 5 days as a part of her 50th birthday present. My dad flies a lot for his job, and¬†as a result, he has a lot of air miles that he can use for other trips. He allowed my mom to choose one destination and one person to go on a trip with her, as a birthday present (husband goals!). My mom said she wanted¬†to go to Taiwan, with me. Woo hoo! After I heard the news, I figured: if we’re going on a trip all the way out to Taiwan, why don’t we make a stop along the way and make a long layover? So with¬†a little sweet talk, we’re also going to Rome for 5 days – which I’m sure will be amazing. Yup, I am traveling a LOT!¬†Honestly, I’m pretty proud of myself for surviving more than 24 hours of travel, so I’ll write something about that eventually.¬†Regardless,¬†I still have 3 days in Taiwan (AKA Chinatown Island)!¬†I feel very privileged¬†and blessed to be here, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my trip has in store. I’ll make sure to keep you posted!

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound and all that is in it -Psalm 96:11

A Vermont ‘Spring’ Break

So, I know I haven’t written in a while. A huge thank-you to goes out to Jack and Andrea! I got your email, and greatly appreciate your loyalty!

I haven’t written about my life since my China trip. To¬†make a long story short, after leaving China, my family went landed into San Francisco, meeting my mom’s brother and his family. We stayed at a nearby motel. Let me tell you, it is¬†warm there! I felt like wearing shorts – a huge change from the cold¬†that I had just escaped from. Time with family was nice, especially on a side that I don’t see very often. I came home, feeling that my Chinese had greatly improved. (It leaves you¬†fast when you’re surrounded by English-only speakers!)

However, the winter I had left was absolutely¬†nothing like the winter I was about to face. The thing about moving from Virginia (a place where the bulk of winter takes place December to January) to Massachusetts (a place where winter is November to February, March even), is that you get disappointed very fast when you hope for spring to come¬†in March.¬†¬†Well, it is March 13, and there is still snow on the ground. Albeit, this is (almost) a record-breaking winter. So. Many. Storms. Four days off school in three weeks, almost all on Mondays – and last year, there was only one day off the entire year. Let’s just say, for sake of all of our sanity, it was a¬†LOT¬†of snow, and a LOT of days of school to make up for!

The snow outside the library. It got to be taller than a lot of people!

Some snow outside the library. It got to be taller than a lot of people!

Besides that, the new semester has been okay. Not incredibly exciting, but¬†not out-of-this-world challenging. However, I have grown to appreciate my friends and my roommate a lot more this year. This semester has had its’ fair share of challenges, and my friends have really been there for me. For Valentine’s Day, most of these friends are single for something we nickname “Single’s Awareness Day”. But it was okay – the day fell on a Saturday, so we went out to a diner for brunch, and had a secret Valentine exchange (like Secret Santa). It was really fun, and I love how my friends are so fun and there for each other.

Friends

Friends

Now, I’m writing from somewhere I’ve never been: Vermont! My friend, Kirstin, invited me to her house for our week-long spring break. Except it’s not really spring, because there’s still snow everywhere and your average¬†day is somewhere¬†below freezing. Kirstin technically lives on a farm – although she doesn’t consider it to be, it fits all the farm requirements for me! – horses, goats, chickens, a rooster, barn cats…. the works.

IMG_4520

The meadow

Have you ever been to a farm? The closest I’ve ever been to a farm was a petting zoo, but of course that isn’t really a farm. Although I love being at Kirstin’s – her family is great, and we watch great TV (see the new show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!). Of course there are boring moments, but it is definitely an experience to be somewhere you’ve never been before!

Sometimes I think about where I am right now, and then I think of the places where it is warm Рeven hot! Places like Florida, California, New Zealand РI have friends who currently live in or are visiting those places, and I am incredibly jealous. It will be sunny soon enough, and summer will come. It might be a bit of a wait, though.

 

 

Winter China 3: A Chinese Family

After our glorious days in XiShuangBanNa, we had to leave.¬†No vacation lasts forever, especially ones to tropical places! We took the plane to KunMing, followed by a transfer flight to NanJing, in¬†the JiangSu province – my mom’s hometown. The plan? To visit (albeit distant) relatives, friends, to¬†lavish on them gifts, and stuff ourselves at every meal. I mean, what else is there to do in China, besides to give & receive gifts and stuff yourself with food?

My dad decided that my mom should take the reins in JiangSu – as in, make all the travel arrangements and be the ‘tour guide’, something that my dad has always done. Was that¬†a good decision? Well, that is neither here nor there. All I can (or should…) say is that we had an adventure: wandering the streets to find a¬†hotel, figuring it all out as we went – and we eventually got to our destination. I don’t know about your family, but with my family, you just have to take things as they come. Almost nothing is a surprise to me, and I’ve just learned to go with the flow, keeping hopes high but expectations low. (hey, that rhymed!)

After getting off the flight, we searched for a dinner in NanJing, then decided we would get to our destination best by bus. So we boarded a bus for a few hours, and got off at ZhenJiang, my mom’s hometown. We wandered around a bit, and then found a place that seemed relatively decent to spend the night, and then went out for Papa John’s¬†with my mom’s cousin, aunt, and family. Yup, Papa John’s! (Although it is not quite as big as¬†Pizza Hut or KFC. KFC and McDonald’s are huge in China. But that’s irrelevant!) The next day, we went out for actual Chinese food. We went to lunch with the same cousins and aunt, as well as good¬†family friends. The days following consisted of more meals to stuff ourselves, attended by different people: more family, other friends, as well as a trip to Pearl Buck’s house along the way. Although that was an extremely brief summary, there are times I’m especially thankful and happy that I have Chinese heritage in me. My family and I talked a lot about Chinese culture – if you will, let me enlighten you on a couple aspects, on meals in particular, in case you’re ever hosting a meal in China:

  • The seating¬†around a round table at a meal is an essential part of the meal. The person sitting directly across from the door is the host. If it’s not the host, it’s the most important person in the room. At a fancy restaurant, their napkin will likely be the poofiest. The person sitting to their right is the most important guest; the person to their left is the second-most important guest. The seating arrangement rules¬†don’t end there – but I will, for both of our sakes.
  • It is VERY¬†important that you argue over who pays for the meal. Fight over who will bring out their wallet. The fight might become physical, and that’s okay. Continue to do argue as loudly obnoxiously as possible for as long as you can¬†until you sense that the fight could be a¬†fight¬†to the death. It is at that time¬†you can tell your guest(s) that the meal has already been paid for, or slide your wallet to the waitress.
  • Force food onto a guest or honored person’s¬†plate. It is extremely impolite to let a guest go hungry, so to make sure that doesn’t happen,¬†put food on their plate whenever a new dish joins the lazy Susan, or whenever you remember to. They will probably say that they do not need more food. Pay no attention – it doesn’t matter what they say; their plate needs food on it regardless of how full they say they are. Remember to honor your elders and those who are honored, so do the same to the them too. On the flip-side: as a guest, you should never finish your plate or bowl. If you do, you are insulting your host¬†by making it seem like they didn’t give you enough to eat. That would not be okay; do not finish your plate or bowl at all costs.
  • A concept derived from the above rule (never let a guest go hungry) is to ALWAYS¬†give and do far more than necessary. So your guests will most likely bring a gift of some kind – any kind, really, but¬†just so you know: chances are high that your gift will be food or tea-related, possibly extravagant and entirely unnecessary. But it’s the thought that counts. (Note to guest: never go without a gift to a dinner by invitation.) There might be a time when¬†actually want¬†some of these gifts (e.g. money or snacks for the train), but it is vital that you DO NOT accept any gifts right away. Make sure you say tell them that no, you DO NOT need or want these gifts at all,¬†that they are too generous and¬†good to you, it really is¬†okay – at¬†least three times. Once those three times have passed, you can then feel free to exhale loudly¬†and accept the gift with gratitude, thanking them many more times than necessary.

These rules seem ridiculous, but the Chinese people take them 100% seriously. In Eastern cultures, it is the host’s responsibility¬†to make the other¬†feel honored, welcomed and appreciated by sacrificing a lot of yourself for them (sometimes a little too much!). As the receiver, one should not find themselves accepting everything; they are not actually in need of help, but the gesture is greatly appreciated. Fighting over who pays? It is the act of generosity that matters. You want your friends and family to do well, so it is almost your obligation to oversee that, as much as possible.

The days of ‘continually going to meals and eating’ continued when we traveled back to Beijing. We have friends there, so¬†we had lunch with my brother’s host family (the one who is studying in Beijing), and lots of meals with friends.¬†Every time, my brothers and I would practice our ‘Chinese manners’ and, of course, dramatize everything.

Being Chinese has its perks – for instance, the monetary gifts! Of course money isn’t everything, but it is definitely nice to remember that your family has always got your back. When China decided it would roll with us (that is, make conditions about everything but make it seem like the New World), we decided we’d roll with China. (It’s a pretty sweet ride.)

Next time: California and Home. We left China eventually, leaving Jon behind and going to California to see my mom’s brother, family, and parents. Dumplings ensue.

Winter China 2: The tropical land of China

I left off last time at leaving the cold, freezing-my-butt-off mountains of Yunnan. We left there for… wait for it… XiShuangBanNa – A.K.A. the tropical land of China! A little about the area: it borders the country of Laos, it’s a big tourist attraction, and has palm trees and sun year-round. Pretty much the opposite of where we just came from!

Plenty of palm trees, and houses that are built on top of poles to allow animals to live underneath.

Plenty of palm trees, and houses that are built on top of poles to allow animals to live underneath.

We moved into our hotel on the 22nd. We were definitely happy to be there! On the 24th (Christmas Eve and my dad’s birthday), we did whatever my dad decided he wanted to do – which was rent bikes, bike to a hot springs, and eat at his new favorite caf√©, MeiMei Caf√©. The rest of us were happy to oblige, as MeiMei’s suited everyone’s taste. Western food is not hard to find in China these days, but good coffee and Belgian chocolate is, and MeiMei had all of the above. Of course we had to have a birthday celebration, which we kept rather low-key: a candle on the cheesecake he ordered delivered¬†to the tune of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. After we got home, we gave a couple presents. Of course, the presents didn’t end there as tomorrow would be Christmas.

As you can probably guess, Christmas spent abroad in a tropical place is a bit unorthodox, to say the least. (No chance for a white Christmas, for starters!) Don’t worry, the hotel had a massive Christmas tree with a ton of depictions of Santa Claus. To make sure that we had enough Christmas spirit, I brought a couple ‘spirited’ elements: a Santa hat, light-up necklace, and Santa bobble-headband, all from the Dollar Store. We put the presents on the bed, and opened them as we usually do:¬†we go around in a circle, each person choosing then opening one present at a time. It was… different. But still good, because¬†the entire family had been reunited after six months apart. We spent most of Christmas day at a botanical forest, seeing plants that are hard to believe even exist, and then at an highly-sexualized minority group performance that we decided we’d leave. So¬†although¬†location definitely helps with the nostalgia and traditional homey feelings, location doesn’t determine who the family is. You can’t chose your family, but you can chose to love and have fun with them. I’m just glad I have a family that’s easy (most of the time!) to have fun with. ūüôā

After XiShuangBanNa, we knew we were headed to my mom’s hometown in the Jiangsu province (she is Chinese and originally from that area), but we didn’t know we were just rolling in without a plan. Definitely an experience and adventure.¬†More to come!

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” -George Bernard Shaw

Winter China 1: Yunnan, or Real China

You may have heard that I went to China over my winter break (and I’m just now writing about it. Without the weekly update requirement like I had at NDFH, it’s easier for me to slack off! Plus, I didn’t have my computer with me half the time, which doesn’t help anything.) China isn’t a top winter destination¬†– especially considering the big sights are absolutely¬†freezing this time of year. My family and I went because my brother, Jon, is doing his senior year of high school¬†abroad in Beijing (the big city outside of which I was at¬†this summer), and we wanted to spend Christmas with him. So we did. Not everything went as planned, though…

After taking my last final exam at school on Thursday, 12/18, I finished packing and a lot of other last-minute things before I got on a plane – a direct flight headed to the Beijing airport. I flew Hainan Airlines there, which was alright except literally¬†everyone was 100% Chinese… let’s leave it there and just say they don’t especially cater towards non-Chinese people. I arrived in the evening. From there, I took a taxi to the serviced apartment that my family was staying in. (A serviced apartment is¬†half-hotel, half-apartment – you pay rent and then you can come whenever you want and they’ll clean for you if you like. Pretty sweet deal!) The rest of my family had gotten in a few days earlier, because my two younger brothers don’t have final exams. Anyways, a little after I arrived and found the apartment, the rest of my family came back from an¬†event at Jon’s school. Lots of hugs ‘n stuff. Well,¬†all I¬†unpacked was my¬†pajamas, because the whole family was¬†hopping on a plane the next day.

The plane was headeYunnand to KunMing, the capital of YunNan province, which is in southwestern-most China. Don’t be deceived by the ‘south’, though –¬†dependent on where you go, it can still be very cold. We were headed to Wenzong, my parents’¬†missionary friend’s, village. His village is in¬†the remote mountains of YunNan. We hadn’t been to the village in some time, and since Wenzong is good friends with my family, we wanted to see how he was doing too. Some friends came with us, wanting to spend some time learning in a very different version of China.

Shanghai

Shanghai

One of the things that I’ve started learning about is that China has changed¬†so fast. Not even 100 years ago,¬†Chinese men were wearing the half-shaved¬†head braid and being ruled by emperors. We went on a lot of walks – looking around, visiting homes in the village or going on hikes – and¬†Jon¬†and I got to talk a lot. We talked about all sorts of things, but we also talked about China’s strange-but-true history – the crazy Cultural Revolution, the changes, how Western cultures often overlook China’s history, and now everyone’s shocked that China’s economy is going to overtake America’s in just¬†a few years.¬†Quite honestly, I don’t know that much about Chinese history. Jon¬†has been learning a lot of it in his classes, so he shared with me about the Long March, the Cultural Revolution, and how is was so, well, revolutionizing. I realized that it was not simply a cultural, but more like an Every-aspect-of-life Revolution. We later brainstormed up an idea – that¬†one summer when we’re both in college, we should go on a two-month-long or so trip to China, taking the public transportation to just about everywhere, and exploring real China – finding China for what it really is. As we talked about this, we walked¬†by¬†mountains and small¬†cement-if-you’re-lucky houses, on the main road that had just recently been paved, in a village that had just gotten running water. This was real China.

We spent a total of three days in Wenzong’s village. Meals¬†were simple, and life wasn’t complicated.¬†My parents had thought spending Christmas in the village would be nice, since it came very close to what the first Christmas had been like: in a barn, with animals, without the glamour that we put on it today. The one thing was that it was so. dang. cold. Every day we put on all the layers we could fit under the biggest jacket we brought. It was below freezing, all the time. Staying inside wasn’t any better, because there were no heating systems. Radiators weren’t great either, since¬†you could only feel any of its warmth when you were right over it. My first night, I was shivering because I¬†had thought my normal pajamas would be okay – I would have to put on socks, long sleeves, with three blankets covering¬†even the top of my head, to be okay. The entire time was below freezing. People around me lived in these conditions, though, so it¬†is humanly possible to live like this.¬†Sometimes I appreciate being in places like this, because it makes me appreciate where the Chinese have been, and where they’re coming from. Sometimes I feel like I’m not getting the whole China experience when I’m staying at a Marriott and drinking apple juice with breakfast. I feel a bit cheated of my China experience, because I know my experiences don’t align with so many of the Chinese people’s. This time in the village, though,¬†definitely came much closer to that experience.

The teachers at the school that Wenzong had started were interim teachers – they would probably only stay for a couple years. We got to see class in session, and take a group photo.¬†One girl had the same Chinese name as me! After three days, it still wasn’t Christmas, but we so cold¬†that¬†my parents decided they’d spent enough time in the village, and our friends agreed. ¬†My youngest two brothers, Peter and James, got the chance to herd goats and ‘be farmers’ with some nice villagers for an entire afternoon. At dinner that night Peter¬†told us about their day, adding that the goats would need them tomorrow. My dad told us about XiShuangBanNa –¬†a county in the ‘state’ of YunNan, if you will. Oh, and it’s tropical and warm.¬†“The goats really need me tomorrow – wait, good thing I brought my swimsuit!” – in the same sentence, Peter had totally changed gears. We were fine with that. We were going to XiShuangBanNa the next day, and we prepared ourselves for anything warmer than what we felt at the moment. Sometimes I’m¬†glad that China’s westernized, but I’m thankful I got to experience ‘real China’, at least for a few days.

 

(Note: It is with great sadness that I write about the one tragedy of my China trip: my phone, forgotten in a taxi ride. Just so you know, the pictures¬†that I have of China are not my own – they’re going to be¬†from someone else. ūüė¶¬†)