Friday, March 6, 2015

Marissa and Reggie in Wales, Part 2!

READING WEEK PART TWO: Roman ruins and Roman Legionary Museum in Caerleon

We stayed in Cardiff for three nights, carving out a morning/afternoon to visit the Roman sites and museum in Caerleon. As a Classics major I will always take the opportunity to nerd out. The first site that we saw was an amphitheater built in 90 AD. It was such a thrill to stand in the middle of the arena where there was so much history…although that history did include the deaths of many gladiators…but whoo! I did find it entertaining, however, that the sites seemed to be geared toward children. On this particularly cold and rainy day the only people visiting these sites were my two friends, me, and a huge group of rambunctious kids led by their exhausted chaperons. I figure this would be the equivalent of my elementary school field trips to Monticello. I remember being that young and visiting the amazing piece of architecture lived in by our nation’s third president. All I could ever think about was how hungry I was, or how tired. I certainly did not care about the Latin and Ancient Greek texts outlining the library bookshelves…ha. So as I looked at these young people frolicking through the amphitheater with their scavenger hunts I could only laugh. I also had the pleasure of looking at the signs they had made, with cartoon versions of Romans in the amphitheater. I was laughing pretty hard to say the least.

Cartoon educational boards at the amphitheater in Caerleon

After that we went to the barracks that had been set up in 50 AD so that the Roman Empire could continue to expand their territory, because clearly their empire was not big enough. The amazing part about these barracks is that they are the only ones you can find in the U.K! I walked through the rooms that Roman soldiers would have slept in, and stepped in the kitchen which was conveniently located near the latrines. 

Marissa in the kitchen.

Having walked outside for a good 30 minutes, while dragging my two non-Classicists friends along the way, we then went through the Roman Legionary Museum. It was only one floor, and at first I had a hard time believing half of the artifacts presented were real. This was because a) they were so well preserved, b) there was red writing on the inscriptions (paint does not survive), and c) I am a critic. However, when I had the rare chance to speak with the curator he told me that everything being showcased was the real deal. It had all been excavated in sites in Caerleon. 

At the Roman Legionary Museum in Caerelon.

For any conservation nerds this will be interesting…for others it may just be…well nerdy. The archaeologists had used clear acrylic paint on the inscriptions as to not damage the stone, and then painted over with red paint to make it easier to read. The inscription in the bottom of the above picture has no modern paint added to it, but is red only because you can actually see the faint remainder of the original paint (WOAH).

An inscription in the Roman Legionary Museum.

Then there is the mosaic floor, and I have always been curious as to how archaeologists literally pick up and move an ancient floor without it breaking. Like I said before, I am Queen of the Skeptics. It turns out they use animal glue and a thin sheet material in order to keep each individual tile together. Then they scrape the floor up…and roll it up…LIKE A RUG. They finally take it to where they want to house it, roll it back out, and pour hot water on it to take off the glue and sheet. You have to admit: Archaeology and conservation are bad-ass.

Mosaic floor.

 Marissa Sarver
Trinity St. David

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Marissa and Reggie in Wales!

READING WEEK PART 1: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

This past week my University had reading week so that students could have uninterrupted time to study. So naturally I abandoned all responsibility for course work and instead dedicated my free time to travel. I easily could have traveled farther, but we decided to get to know our host country better. And let me tell you, such a good choice. Samantha, Lauren, Parmigiano Reggiano the dragon (or Reggie for short), and myself traveled around Wales! 

Parmigiano Reggiano (Reggie) the dragon in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

For the first night we stayed in Poppit sands, starting off the next day hiking the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. We were told by experienced hikers that the hike to Newport should only take about 3-5 hours, and of course we trusted this. So the next day we set off with all of our belongings expecting to be in Newport in time for lunch. After some pretty steep climbs along the coastline we had become exhausted. However, our optimistic outlook was still going strong with the beautiful view. 

Along the way we reached a farm with some very friendly horses, and also met the older man who owned them. Reggie wanted to eat the horses but I told him they were just for petting. He was reluctant but eventually he did bond with one of them! 

Marissa and her new friend.

We then asked the owner, already assuming we were correct, if Newport was close. He laughed. We became afraid. He then proceeded to tell us that we were barely halfway. Our hearts broke a little, because after 6 miles/3 hours of hiking up and down hills we were exhausted. But we had our destination, and we had our goals! We continued to trek on, and finally came upon a sign that said 8 1/2 miles left…and then another sign telling us that we were now coming upon the most difficult part of the hike. With hardly any food and the fear of losing daylight, all we could do was get there.

The view was still beautiful, but there came a point when all I wanted to see was a town…with other people. Gradually our motivation dwindled, which led to us jumping fences. I do not feel bad for trespassing because 1) we were in the middle of nowhere, 2) what is a nice Welsh gentleman actually going to do?, and 3) the territory over the fence was drastically easier to hike than the stupid up and down hills (where we basically had to crawl on our hands in order to pull ourselves up). Of course Reggie made no complaints the whole time because he was either flying or riding in my backpack. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the little dragon’s peppy mood didn’t bug me about half way through. But I am happy that the little guy had fun…while I was in pain. Finally after 14 miles we came over a hill and saw civilization…praise! Not only was it gorgeous because civilization, but in general Newport is an amazing town. We climbed down from a waterfall (because once again there was a hill and we were done with those) onto the bay. It was the perfect time of day, with the sun setting and the clouds reflected in the water. 

But we were not done yet! We had to walk about another mile to the center of town, catch the bus to Haverford West, and then catch a train to Cardiff. With an hour to spare before the train came, we took the bus back into town to get some food. Only thing about this last excursion…the next bus to take us back to the train station would arrive 5 minutes before the last train left. We were a little on edge. Thankfully it did come, and we stepped onto the platform just as the train pulled in. I sat down, breathed the biggest sigh of relief, ate my healthy choice of KitKats and chips, and napped until Cardiff.

It was definitely a long day and certainly painful, but now I can look back and say I hiked a total of 19 miles in one day. It may have been torture in the moment, but it’s one heck of a story.

Part 2: Bath, to follow!

Marissa Sarver
Trinity St. David

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rachel and Lord Wallace in Carmarthen, Wales!

One word, three syllables, ready? PO-TA-TOES. Every day, twice a day (minimum) -they eat them fried, mashed, hashed, roasted, boiled, tatered…. The list goes on and on, the point is, the Welsh absolutely cannot get enough of their potatoes. So much that I’m sure they give the Irish a run for their money. Why I feel like that is the most shocking thing about where I am I don’t know, but it is.

My dragon, Lord Wallace, and I are currently studying abroad in Carmarthen, Wales. And from what I can tell so far it’s a small country that is highly passionate about three things:

1.    Potatoes
2.    Sheep (they out populate the people!)
3.    Castles (there’s loads of them…)

I have a Welsh flag hanging on my wall, and it reminds me so much of the Lloyd International Honors College, seeing as it carries the same flag. It gets me to thinking about the program that cultivated such a strong desire to send members of its community out into the world. I am so thankful to be one of those members and am connected with so many others as they document their adventures around the world. It’s even more insane to think that four months ago I didn’t even have my passport, and now I’m halfway around the world!

When Lord Wallace isn't enjoying potatoes, he quite enjoys a delicious Welsh cake with his tea.

We internationals have been here for a little over a month; it feels like a lifetime and a blink of an eye all at the same time. In the first few weeks I was here I got really sick (think: terrible cough, losing my voice sick) and for the first week or so I couldn’t talk to other people or even use basic ASL (English Sign Language is way different). But, it was a blessing because it meant less talking and more listening and more watching. Listening to all the stories and accents people have to share and watching the rolling hills that lay in my backyard. This country is beyond compare, even if I had been able to speak, I would’ve been speechless anyway over how astonishing it all is. I have fallen in love with the simplest things like how the small cars zip through the tiny streets, the randomness of the weather and its Dippin’ Dot like hail, and even the way people seem to light up with just a smile.  If a picture is worth a thousands words, there aren’t enough pictures in the world to even begin to describe how beautifully charming I am finding Carmarthen to be. Believe me when I say: the grass really is greener on the other side!

In terms of education here, I’m still trying to understand it. I’m a theatre major and so we take one class roughly each month. Meaning, I’m just about to finish my first class. It’s been quite a confusing process as we have had a few mandatory lectures, but for most of the time I have been in charge of my own work and schedules. I’ve never been given this much freedom in my education and I’m still a little cautious of it. Explaining the education system to the students here is quite amusing too, they’re intrigued by the fact that we can have double majors and minors and extra-circulars. Yet at the same time are baffled by attendance policies, busy-work, and the lack of tea times built into lectures….

White Sands Bay.  My favorite place I've been to visit so far!

 My favorite thing about being abroad is the realization and appreciation of the small things in life. You find some true friends, both within your international group and in the friendships you choose to keep up with back home despite the time zones. You learn to miss certain foods and brands all while discovering and falling in love with new foods and brands (I’m talking to you, Honey Hoops…_). And in being here I know there are so many things that I have taken for granted: having a car, a currency with not so many coins, a proper salad, water fountains pretty much everywhere, certain holidays, 3-ringed binders (it’s only 2 here), my dog, and dare I say it…even the UNCG Caf. Yet, while I miss all of these things and more about being home, I know that I would not trade this experience for anything else in the world. Because at the end of the day whether it is finally getting to go for a run, finding your way to a store for food, making a new friend, or figuring out the difference between a Welsh accent and an English one…. I learn and experience something new here each and every day. I am so grateful to be able to learn OUTSIDE of a classroom; to learn about a different culture, my field of study, and most importantly - more about who I am.

I hope everyone back home is doing well and staying warm! Enjoy all of the snow!

Rachael and Lord Wallace
Trinity St. David
Carmarthen, Wales

P.S. – If you plan on going abroad, invest in a selfie stick! You may look like a dork but it’s a great way to meet people and have some pretty fantastic photos!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Adamma and Drayfus in Queretaro, Mexico!


Hola from México! It’s Adamma Chidomere and Drayfus, or ¨Dray¨ for short, here to give you the scoop on life in the wonderful city of Querétaro, México. 

Drayfus and his favorite food Chilaquiles

The food here in México is very yummy and delicious! Even the native Mexicans sat that the food here is very rich. Many of the meals I´ve eaten have included vegetables (which I hardly ate at home) and they taste very fresh. This is probably the reason I have no problem eating them here and anticipate the meals that my host mom prepares with tomatoes and avocados. I have to address the sheer amount of frijoles (beans) I have eaten since I arrived. So many beans! Beans and tortillas are a new addition to my diet that I never thought I would enjoy eating as often as I have. I´ve learned in my culture class that tortillas are very important and are considered food from the gods. My host mom prepares a variety of Mexican food for my housemate and I including tortas, gorditas and sope. The food is an aspect of their culture that I am definitely going to miss.

Tortas, gorditas, and sope at our orientation

My favorite place to visit, so far, is Centro which is the name for the downtown area. It has many fountains, statues, beautiful buildings, breath-taking churches and restaurants. There is an alley full of vendors lined up selling handmade jewelry, clothing and other awesome crafts. 

In Centro!
A church in downtown Queretaro

The warmth and friendliness I´ve felt from the Mexicans is very genuine and makes me feel better on those days that I feel homesick. Smiling goes a long way here which is great for a person like me who loves to smile : ) ! Passing people on the way to school or people in the stores and shopping malls offer smiles or say ¨hola¨ or ¨buenos días/tardes/noches¨.

The day we arrived to Querétaro, my host home invited my housemate and I to the house of her friend to celebrate the holiday El Día de Reyes or Three Kings Day on January 6th. This was Dray and I’s first time eating Rosca de Reyes (King´s Cake) and tasted great! It was sweet and the glazed fruits on top makes it even better. This holiday, sadly, only happens once a year because it´s celebrated during Christmas time. I had to console Drayfus for 3 days after we learned this because he loves rosca. The traditions that go with this holiday are very interesting because the cake is baked in the shape of a circle and hidden inside are tiny baby Jesus´ which represent how Jesus´ location and birth had to remain a secret. If you are ¨lucky¨ enough to cut a piece with a baby figurine of Jesus, you had to prepare tamales on February 2nd. Dray and I got to try tamales for the first time at the event ¨Día de la Candelaria¨ hosted by my school Tecnológico de Monterrey or simply Tec like everyone calls it. Another thing I have learned is that what we international students consider spicy is very different than what Mexicans consider spicy.  

Rosca de Reyes

Lastly, the schooling system here is similar to UNCG but has its differences. At the Tec, we call exams parciales and two weeks are designated for the entire university to take them. They began the second week of February and they happen twice a semester. Another difference is that my Spanish class happens 4 days a week, excluding Wednesdays, and classes start 5 minutes later than scheduled and end 5 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Soy Queretaro

Dray and I are enjoying our time in México so far and hope that it continues to get better!
¡Nos vemos, adios!

Adamma Chidomere
Tecnologico de Monterrey
Queretaro, Mexico