Ready to Travel?
Today's topic is about planning. There some are things to check before heading out to a new place and I'm going to over the things I think are important to do before leaving.
Making a budget is important when planning to travel. It helps against over or under-spending and also shows you the different options available in the place you're visiting. Don't go in blind unless that's your style. In order to make a proper budget, find out:
Currency exchange amount (if traveling internationally)
Extra money for emergencies
Find out the currency exchange amount for that country before you leave! Then you can make a proper budget, bring the right amount to exchange, and have little to no issues abroad.
Plane and tickets and hotel/room reservations should be periodically checked and booked a few months or weeks prior to travel. This gives you more options and lower prices. You want to find a hotel/room that is closest to the activities you are partaking in or that has the best view. Read the reviews if there are any. Hear what others have to say about that place. Find some articles online and read others' experience over there.Always stay ahead of the game and make the most informed decisions.
What kind of transportation will you use over there? An Uber, a bus, the train, a rental car, a bicycle? Figuring these things out beforehand will cause less stress when getting around especially when you've checked prices and allotted money towards it. Sometimes this information is not found online and you might have to guess. Possible activities connect with transportation because you need to know how to get to each event or place. If an attraction is a short distance from your room or hotel, maybe walking or taking Uber would be the best option. However, if it's more than a few miles and long walks is not your style, having a designated mode of transportation (Uber, train, bus, or rental) creates less hassle. But first, you have to know where you want to visit within the place your traveling to or what activities like going to the beach, hiking, or going dancing, are available. A list of possible activities is a great idea so you already know the options around you.
Extra money for emergencies is a no-brainer. You never know what might pop up while traveling. No need to bring a large amount, many places might even take your debit or credit card.
If you are traveling in a group, it's very important to have group consensus as much as possible, or split people up. Everyone should be in the loop at all times even if the responsibilities are divided among yourselves. It's tough planning with multiple people who may have different interests and personalities, but there was a reason you all decided to go together and not separately. So, working together is a must. Everyone wants to have fun. Get all the boring planning out of the way (though that's my favorite part), then enjoy the trip.
I hope you can incorporate these tips into your travel plans. Stay tuned next week to learn why I started blogging.
*Photo by rawpixel on unsplash.com
Wanna travel but don't know where to go?
I feel like a lot of people have this issue. They want to explore new landscapes and cultures, but don't have a specific place in mind. They may say a continent or a country, but those are broad terms! Don't get me wrong, some adventurers know exactly what they want to do and where. This post is for those who are having a bit of trouble choosing a place to visit.
What do you want to see and do? If you are spending a considerate amount of time, energy, and resources going somewhere, there has to be something worth seeing and doing. There are museums around the world, the pyramids, the Eiffel tower, and lots of historical buildings.
What makes you happy and excited? Let's say you love pizza. Find the best places for pizza in your country or somewhere else. Traveling does not only mean international. Taking a roadtrip or even going out of state is considered travel. It's important to choose a place for your desire and not because it's a famous place many people visit. What if you don't end up enjoying it? I've heard great things about Hawaii, but I don't have a personal reason or desire to visit there. Just because it has great views, food, culture, and beaches, doesn't mean everyone needs to visit. Think about what makes you feel comfortable, calm, and happy. Or, maybe you want excitement, a bit of fear, and mystery. Maybe an adventure with a hint of danger? Maybe a weekend getaway at a lakeside home may be enough of travel for you. Think about what you enjoy doing.
What do you want to take away from the experience? What are the outcomes? Having fun? Climbing to the top of a mountain? Being culturally aware? Trying new food? What is the purpose of the trip and the goal you are trying to achieve from going? I personally don't care for beaches. In my last post I mentioned how much I love mountains. Before I found out about the Bolivian mountains I knew I wanted to spend some times in some mountainous region with trees and waterfalls. I like being in wilderness, but that doesn't mean I'd go anywhere. Your time is precious, so don't waste it somewhere you won't enjoy.
Write down the answers to some of the questions I asked and come up with a list of places that fit your criteria. Do some research and make a pros and cons list. Once you sit down and contemplate the options, you'll find the right place.
Hope this helped inspire you! Stay tuned for next week's post about making travel plans.
*Photo by Nathan Dumlao on unsplash.com
Got any travel plans?
The first three Saturday posts for January will be about traveling. This post is all about where I'd like to go and why! I'm not a travel enthusiast and don't desire to travel the world or a bunch of countries, but here are a few places I've set my mind on to visit.
Many times I hear people want to visit Paris because it's the city of love and the Eiffel tower is there. I want to go because I would love to tour the catacombs of Paris. The catacombs hold six million people who have died. The bones are fit together like puzzle pieces along the walls like the picture above. I learned about this place from a book I read, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. It's about a high school girl who found a diary belonging to a girl that lived during the French Revolution. I have read the book twice and loved it more the second time. Being able to visit this place would make the story come alive to me.
I love mountains! It's what I love the most about California. I can see the outline of the mountains in the distance. Absolutely beautiful. I want to take a trip to Coroico, Bolivia and stay in a cabin there to enjoy the mountains, wildlife, and culture. The prices are affordable considering all you can see and do like hiking, cycling, touring rivers and waterfalls, and seeing the sights! The picture above is not from Bolivia, I couldn't find one free to use, so enjoy a picture of the French Mountains! Or is this in Germany?
Last, but certainly not least, is Morocco! I have heard great things about Morocco, specifically Marrakech. I've seen videos and pictures so it's on my travel list.
Stay tuned for next week's post about travel ideas.
*2nd Photo by Travis Grossen on unsplash.com
*3rd Photo by Chris Holgersson on unspash.com
*4th Photo by Dominik Stotter on unsplash.com
This past month I learned some exciting things in another country. I ate new food, interacted with a new culture, and shared these experiences with nine other students in my group. Of course, nothing is without its faults. This trip had its ups and downs, but overall I enjoyed living in Brazil and learning about the Black experience there. I won't sugarcoat anything in this overview, but I also will not bash the program or the coordinators. They did their best in the context that they were in. First, I will talk about aspects of the program that I enjoyed. Second, I will talk about things that bothered me during the trip. Finally, I will discuss things that could be improved on.
What I Enjoyed
Environment: So the weather was very humid and warm. I'm all for some humidity, but this was a little too much. Only a few times was it actually cold. I could wear whatever I wanted, though most of the time I still wore pants. Coming from the airport and settling in our apartment in Copacabana, I realized Rio reminded me of a city inside a jungle. There were luscious green trees planted along the sidewalks, swaying above us with the buildings. I also liked how there shops lined down the streets close to where we lived. The supermarket and the metro were a short walk away.
Fast food/ Tapioca: Okay, let me tell you something. The fast food in Rio was a hundred times better than here in the U.S. (my opinion). Over there, places like McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC, are a lot more pricey, but the quality of food is great. A McChicken from McDonald's in the U.S. is flat and sad looking. In Rio? It's fresh, and ready to be eaten. Now, I am someone that doesn't eat fast food often, but I allowed myself to divulge in Brazil because 1) It tasted better 2) I won't have this luxury back home so I might as well enjoy. So, Tapioca is a bit difficult to explain. It's like a folded sandwich with various things you can have inside like chicken, ham, cheese, butter, coconut, chocolate, banana, etc. The first one I got was chicken and coconut, but I didn't like it too much because it was dry. The second time I got butter and chicken. That was delicious.
Little trips: We went to Sugarloaf Mountain, The botanical garden, flea markets, restaurants, an eight-story mall, walked fifteen minutes to Starbucks, and played at the park across the street! Our free time turned into fun adventures.
My group members: I don't know if any other group would have made this trip better, because the students I went with were super cool. They each had a unique personality and we got along so well. In the beginning I thought there would be cliques within our small ten person group, but we all connected with each other. We had such great moments and I felt comfortable with them, which was a surprise.
Class: The most thought provoking part of the trip! We learned so much in five weeks and I will elaborate on some of the topics in the Review and Reflect part of my blog every Wednesday.
Things that Bothered Me
Too many people on the sidewalk!: Wow... I could barely enjoy walking down the street due to the amount of pedestrians coming towards me. The sidewalks are wide, but clearly not wide enough for the people walking and street vendors situated.
Translation during class/vibes: Many of the Brazilian students did not speak English or understand it very well, including the speakers we had. Before we arrived in Brazil, we were told they had to know English to be enrolled so we came with that expectation, but that's not what happened. Sometimes students were so deep in discussion with the speakers it didn't give time for translations. That made it hard to follow along or jump in because it went from one topic to another. Sometimes someone would speak passionately for a long time in Portuguese then their translation would be super short and you could tell what they translated did not include all they said. Now with vibes. The class felt divided. We couldn't relate/connect with the Brazilian students, many of them were not as open as we thought they would be. There were a handful of welcoming students, don't get me wrong, but every class felt like an us vs. them battle.
Using matches: The stove and oven in the hotel was gas-based and we had to use matches to turn them on. I was kinda scared, but then again it wasn't that big of a deal after like a week.
Disorganization throughout the program: We didn't receive a syllabus until the second week of the program, they sent us the readings a night before the second class, and our discussion sections/language class didn't have a set date/time. They wanted this program to be flexible, but it didn't come off that way. It seemed like things were not organized which it hard for me to have a student mindset when the structure is unstable. A lot of information given to us were not clarified until almost the middle of the program.
Things to Improve On
Realistic expectations for American and Brazilian students
Transportation costs to and from class and when we meet with the activists
List of cool things to do/go
Organized class/section schedules
This day we met with another activist who runs one of eight community centers for young kids in favelas (slums) or in poorer neighborhoods. They teach them about technology, sports, reading, arts and crafts and they even take them on field trips! It was great hearing about the work they do catering the young people so that they can gain skills and have fun.
I skipped out on going to see the Christ the Redeemer because I wasn't interested. Later that night we went to a city called Lapa which is big on nightlife. The city was alive that night! We danced for two hours and it was the first time since prom where I had fun dancing this much.
We had another activist meeting at a building called the ship of knowledge where young children come to learn about how to use computers, coding, and other technology related lessons. Flavia was our dance workshop leader and her group taught us about a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance called Jongo derived from the Bantu people in Africa. She told us the history of Jongo during slavery in Brazil and how black people would practice variations of this dance. It was also a way to communicate with each other. We gathered in a circle and Flavia taught us different movements that we eventually put together. We broke out a bit of a sweat.
Just like last Sunday went back to the hippie fair/market even though it was slightly sprinkling and gloomy. I was only planning on getting one more postcard, but I ended up with a few more goodies. Things I bought: Postcard with a Brazil game, a colorful bracelet, a purple coin purse dedicated to the 2016 Olympics hosted by Brazil, and a rock my friend got me.
Afterwards we ate DELICIOUS nachos at a Mexican restaurant and the owner is from Socal!
Today's class was different. There was a documentary by Ana Flauzina, -a well-known activist in Brazil- shown in the morning around 10am. The basis of the
We discussed the film, had lunch and then regular lecture with Ana about her book which discussed love, racism, blackness, and inner struggles. It was like a compilation of different stories told from various points of view.
This was a chill day. I worked on this post and my presentation for class on one of the activist sessions. I chose the one on Jongo because it was really interesting and we could show a video in class.
Later that night, three of us went to a sushi restaurant and it was delicious! I've had sushi before, but this night I tried raw fish and I actually enjoyed it.
Last day of class! During class we did our presentations, completed evaluations for the program, had a guest speaker from Finland, and finally a little party. It was a little bittersweet -more sweet than bitter I was ready to come home.
A few people in my group got tattoos, so we stayed in the shop for hours. Then we had our last potluck.
We packed in morning until two because we had to move into another room for the night.
Our flight got delayed!! Instead of leaving at 9pm it was moved to 2am.
Arrived at 4pm. So glad to be back! I will post an overview of the trip next week so watch out for that.
July 11th to July 18th
Our group went to the Jardim do Botânico and walked around taking pictures for hours. It was a beautiful place. There were so many trees, streams, birds chirping, and a lake with fish in it. I enjoyed the scenic view. It's a place where I could sit down and read or write. Some plants were very different, but still spectacular. We climbed up stone steps with moss on them, and took many pictures of spiders! We didn't see all the botanical garden had to offer unfortunately, but maybe we'll visit again.
Discussion section in the morning then class
We met with an activist in a city that was pretty far. Our trip consisted of the subway, a train, and a bus. Her name is Flavia and she is a spiritual leader for an Afro-Brazilian indigenous religion. The place was named House of Forgiveness. Flavia is an advocate for religious rights and women's rights. She feeds people in her community that are struggling and is running for a position in Federal Congress!
My roommate and I walked to a currency exchange store because we ran out of Brazilian Real.
Afterwards we shopped at a grocery store that resembled Wholefoods. I found peanut butter, almond milk, granola, wannabe pringles, and tortilla chips!
I cooked coconut rice, chicken, and fries. I've never tried coconut rice before and I was nervous when cooking because I wasn't sure if I would like it or not Thankfully everything tasted delicious.
This day was an adventure. Our group went to a hippie festival to buy goodies for ourselves and people back home. They had bags (fanny packs, backpacks, purses, handbags,etc), shoes, headscarves, and lots jewelry and crystals! There were many different booths. I bought a crystal necklace, a notebook, two postcards, and a shot glass. My mind was conflicted because I wanted to buy a straw woven purse (keep in mind I do not use purses) but it was a bit expensive.
Class at one. Our professor discussed parallels between the US and Brazil surrounding the history of black people and how anti-blackness affects people's perceptions, mass incarceration, etc. It creates the notion of nonblack vs. black instead of the black vs. white model.
This day was an adventure, we walked A LOT. On our way to the famous Escadaria Selaron we through a park and saw ducks that resembled swans. They were bigger than any ducks I've ever seen. Once we reached the stairs it was PACKED. I mean we were bumping into folks while trying to take pictures and go up the stairs. The artwork was stunning and I saw a Ghana flag. That was cool.
Afterwards we walked about 20 minues to the Museum of Tomorrow, but it was too late for us to enter. Tickets sold out. Instead, we walked around and took pictures by the water as the sun was setting. Finally we got on the metro and headed to a mall in another city to eat dinner.
Class at one again. Our speaker went over the deciding factors for what makes one issue a social problem that lawmakers will focus on compared to another issue. Also why at certain points in time a particular issue is more prevalent, loses its support then becomes a problem later. For example let's say public transportation is a really important issue right now but in 4 years it won't be, then four years after that it becomes an issue again. She gave models and diagrams on the process. I enjoyed it.
July 4th- July 10th
Bought food from the farmer's market
Went to class
Back to the hotel
Language class during the afternoon
Me and my roommate walked to Starbucks fifteen minutes away. We stayed there for three hours writing. I bought 2 banana breads which were soft and spongy.
Later in the night our TA cooked dinner for us.
Then we had karaoke which I did not participate in.
The last Brazil game! A couple small restaurants near the hotel had TV's to watch so two other students and I chose one to sit at. During the course of the game we ordered three platters of fries back to back! They were delicious! Moments like these are what really make up this trip, sitting with the locals and taking in the atmosphere, and enjoying the environment. Oh, and getting alarmed each time fireworks went because it was down the street from us! It felt like each boom stopped my heartbeat.
Our group took ubers to Sugarloaf Mountain and went up in cable cars to both mountains. The view of Rio de Janeiro was spectacular despite some fog. From up there you could see the beaches, a small island, and the cities surrounded by luscious green trees. Standing on those two mountains was peaceful and serene. I appreciated the scenery down below as well as on the mountain walking around watching monkeys race along tree branches and feeling the breeze hit us.
I started to feel more sick when we came back from Sugarloaf, so I decided to relax in the hotel all day.
Had class at 1pm
Went back to sleep, got up around 3, and went to the market to buy food for our second potluck. My roommate and I made fries, potatoes, and bacon.
Oi, tudo bem?
I am starting this breakdown from Friday of last week up until Tuesday because it's a lot of information. This timeline was pretty fun! We only had class once on Wednesday due to Brazil playing against Mexico on Monday.
I was at the hotel all day writing and listening to music. As I've said before, I am working on my other stories this summer and Being a Model is one of them. If you're new click here to read about Being a Model. I wrote 994 words for BAM and that is a good number for me despite not writing fiction since December. Words just flow when I'm working on this story. Unlike my other stories, this one has more description and extrospection than introspection meaning my main character is focusing on the details of the external world more than what's going on internally.
We went on a walking tour to learn about the history of Rio De Janeiro starting from the 1500's with the slave trade. We went to the parts of the city where the shore used to be (they filled in the water with land to build what is now Rio) Ships would come in with African people(six million in total), many who would die from disease and starvation. Our tour guide showed us an area that was excavated. Archaeologists found over five hundred thousand artifacts from the 1500's like pottery and glass among other items. He also sang a song explaining how the history of slavery is romanticized and retold as an event not as harsh as it was. Next, we visited a cemetery/museum for archaeological items from slaves. Lastly, we went to an area in Rio call Little Africa. This Afro-Brazilian community has a lot of rich culture where African religions and music is very strong. It's also the place where samba and Carnival was born.
I took a nap/laid in bed for a couple hours.
Me and my roommate plus other students talked and watched Identity Thief on Netflix.
Got up in the afternoon and started writing today's post.
Wrote few hundred words for Being a Model
That's all I remember!
I stayed in bed so i didn't watch the Brazil vs. Mexico game but I kept up with the score.
My study abroad group planned a potluck so we had dinner and dessert that night. We had spaghetti with ground beef, potatoes, white rice and Spanish rice, salad, garlic bread, drinks, chocolate cake and ice cream. During the dinner we discussed many different topics. We went over the first week of class and talked about racial classifications and our experiences. It was a great conversation and I discovered new perspectives and worldviews surrounding self-identification when it comes to race/ethnicity/nationality. I love these types of conversations because it allows you to step out of your perspective and understand another's experience. Without these discussions, we wouldn't be able to understand the world.
Afterwards, we went to the park, took pictures of a mural and walked around for a couple hours.
Then off to bed.
Today was also fun! In the morning it was discussion section and language class in the morning with our teacher assistant (TA) and the professor for the program. We worked out a issues we were having in class due to the use of Portuguese for the majority of class time.
Around three o'clock me and two other students went to a restaurant to watch the Columbia vs. England game. There was plenty screaming and disappointment throughout the match. Then out of nowhere it started raining! Thankfully we were in a shaded outdoor area and by the time it stopped, the match ended.
Walked to the mall with eight floors and a movie theater on the top floor. I bought an apple pie from the McDonald's there and it was AMAZING, better than the U.S.
When I got back to the hotel our translator helped me turn on the oven because it's gas not electrical so she used matches. I was scared and burned my finger a little.
Then off to bed.
One week in Brazil down, four to go!
These past seven days has been filled learning Portuguese, understanding the culture and politics, meeting new people, and adapting to the food. When traveling to another country you don’t know much about, try not to make too many assumptions or have many expectations. The idea you have in your mind may be tainted because you are seeing it from the perspective of your home country. I took a music class that went over Brazilian music and the culture, so I had a small understanding of it and didn’t hold much expectations when coming here. The only thing I did have grand expectations for was the food. For some reason I expected it to be a certain way, but it wasn’t. Not to say the food is terrible, no quite the opposite. I’m lactose-intolerant and a picky eater so finding something appealing to eat was difficult. If you’re the kind of person that likes everything then you wouldn’t have a problem.
Arrived at 10-something in and met our TA's.
Got in a taxi- that driver was wild in the streets! I was scared, but everyone else on the roads drove the same way.
Arrived at the hotel which looks really cool.
Met up with the group later and introduced ourselves.
Went grocery shopping.
In our class we have twenty-nine Brazilian students (mostly grad students) and ten of us U.S. students from my school. The first day of class was very interesting. Before class we had orientation. We learned about the nonprofit organization called Criola that runs this study abroad program. We touched different definitions of black diaspora and discussed differences between Brazil and the U.S. in terms of race and racism. Afterwards, I went back to our hotel to rest and head out to Copacabana beach with another student.
We got our metro cards.
Took the subway to eat lunch and watch the world cup. Okay, so lunch was delicious. I ordered rice with broccoli, French fries, and beef in steak from a restaurant called Galeto I think? The game between Nigeria and Argentina was playing on huge TV’s in multiple restaurants outside.
Went to the mall that had EIGHT floors with sit-in dining restaurants and fast food shops like McDonald’s and a movie theater on the top view. Oh, there was a beautiful view of the water and the street too.
Then I came home to write part of this post.
Bought fruit and habanero peppers from the farmer’s market.
Registered and paid for my sim card while watching the hilarious match between South Korea and Germany in the phone store.
Took a nap.
Read the text for class and took notes.
Went to class. We discussed masculinity and what it means for/to black men and black transmen.
Almost took the wrong metro home.
Bought Tapioca with coconut and chicken.
Went grocery shopping.
Watching a thriller with my roommate.
Wrote a little for this post.
*Photo by Agustín Diaz on Unsplash
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