My last full week in Quito

I’m writing on a much more positive note this week — Yay. My week at the surgery unit in the military hospital was amazing. This was the second time in the last few years that I’ve been able to scrub in on surgeries (now in two different continents), and I loved everything (ok like 99%).


This time, I got to see a little bit of everything (which was nice considering I had a 40 minute commute and had to be there by 7 am). I got to see pre-op patients, check up on post-op patients, participate in rounds with the other medical students, scrub in on surgeries (one gallbladder removal, one hernia repair), sit in on consultations, be a part of diagnostic meetings, and sat in on a gastro-intestinal lecture. Can my life get any cooler?


Unfortunately, I also had to sit in on family members receiving bad news about their loved ones. Which was incredibly difficult, and it made me glad it wasn’t something I had to personally be doing. It was especially difficult because Ecuadorians tend to have a strange way of reacting (in my opinion) to someone showing weakness or discomfort. I’ve never seen someone here acknowledge when a person starts to cry, instead they just turn the other way. My assumption is that this is to allow the person to try and “save some face” or recompose themselves to not appear emotional, which likely stems from the incredibly machismo culture they’re brought up in. Even the children at the preschool were ignored when they cried. Like they didn’t want them to be embarrassed for letting some emotion slip out. After saying goodbye to the great people at the surgical unit, me and the girls headed 9 hours south to Cuenca. A town worth the distance for its architecture alone. The fact that it was a solid 75 degrees and sunny the majority of the time was also an added bonus.

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And some more:

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Here we explored churches, plazas. museums, flower markets, artisan markets, a zoo, and ate some of the best food I’ve had while in Ecuador. The zoo was fantastic. There were baby lion cubs just feet away from a fence (yes, that’s literally all that separated us from them–and their mom) AND monkeys swinging freely from the trees as you walked around. I’m talking no cages of any sort. They sat on branches inches away from your face, I could have touched one if I didn’t forgo on the $900 rabies vaccine. Here’s a picture, I named him Frank:


Okay, I told you I’d get to the food. So, the first day we got there we had breakfast at a German bakery. For $3 you got scrambled eggs, tea or coffee, and unlimited helpings to a buffet of freshly baked German bread. Poppy seed, rye, cinnamon, fruit chunks, you name it. Plus like a million different types of spreads. Yes, we stayed there for like two hours.

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On top of that we had delicious coconut juice, pesto bagel sandwiches, and Indian food that easily put me in a food coma. (Just a reminder I ACTUALLY haven’t cooked for myself in almost 3 months. Just let that sink in) Something that I’ve noticed a lot here is the obsession with Westernized culture (not surprising, considering it seems to be pushed on everyone). One thing that people seem to love here is imported US clothes and other goods. However, a shirt that would be like $15 in the US is easily $40 here, so most people can’t afford it. Unless of course you get a knock-off version of a brand that is popular with 14-year-olds int the States:

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On Sunday we decided to travel 45 minutes to a nature reserve called Cajas. Little did we know that just 45 minutes outside of beautiful Cuenca there was a raining, freezing, mess. And of course we didn’t dress accordingly. So instead of getting to hike a couple of the 200 lakes and over 75 trails, we sat in a restaurant by a warm fire, enjoying hot potato soup, and viewing the scenery while being sheltered from the cold. Not complaining over here, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Except maybe for it to be sunny.


By the way, that fried cheesy goodness behind the soup is an epenada. I have at least 3 a week.

And here is a picture from on top of a hill, over looking part of Cuenca (Ecuador’s 3rd largest city):

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Other than having a great week, and weekend, my knee still kind of sucks. I bought a brace to keep it sturdy during my adventures, but I’m in constant need of ibuprofen and my mobility is a lot more limited then I would like. After being checked out by the doctor I’m shadowing this week, and by my medical director, both told me they would highly encourage an MRI as soon as possible. They talked about lateral ligament damage, and possibly a fracture from the patella hitting the other bones when it dislocated. I don’t really like the sound of that (obviously), but I’m very thankful I’ve been able to walk and my injury hasn’t ruined my trip, or cut it short.

Here is a picture of the swelling the morning after the dislocation/injury (thankfully no bruising and the swelling has gone down. It only hurts to straighten out or bend, and to the touch in some parts):

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Even though it’s not ideal that I have to use them, it’s pretty cool I’m surrounded by doctors that can give me consultations and checkups without appointments or being charged. I love being surrounded by medicine here: the girls I live with study it, we constantly talk about our clinical experiences, the Spanish I learn is mostly medical Spanish at the moment, and then I work in medical facilities at least 4-5 hours a day during the week. I’m in heaven (again, minus the knee)!

Today was my first day at a hospital for Familiar medicine. It was quite different than what I’ve been used to shadowing: which is private hospitals for people who can afford to pay a ton of money for excellent care. The hospital I went to today was for those getting help from social security, in a hospital that hadn’t had much attention itself in what looked to be decades. The consultation room I worked in had a small window, no working lights, a makeshift desk, and an examination bench/bed that looked like it belonged in MASH. But I’m so thankful I got to see this side, considering this is how the majority of people here receive health care (and those are the ones that even have access).

After shadowing the doctor who was checking in on patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and epilepsy, me and the other med students moved on to the Emergency Room. The ER was a large, square, cement room, with about 25 beds placed maybe two feet apart from each other, most with thin curtains between for “privacy.” No one had monitors for their vitals, most didn’t even get a pillow. And the weirdest thing? They had a hose-down station for pediatric patients. I kid you not, there was a room with a large basin, and if you brought your child into the ER, you were expected to put them in it, and hose them down. When I asked the doctor why this was, he said kids are often the most dirty of patients, carrying harmful germs, and they usually have some sort of bodily fluid on their clothing/hands. Especially when sick. Since the beds are so close to each other, they want to lower the risk of passing illnesses/bacteria on to weak, elderly, or pregnant patients…Interesting huh?

Speaking of those little germ-balls, everyone in the clinic who asks me what kind of specialty I want to go into, already assumes it’s pediatrics or maternity. In fact, many people have just answered their own question for themselves, before I got a chance to respond. In their defense, that’s what most young med/nursing students who are women want to do here. But I think it’s because it’s kind of already decided for them, in a societal-pressure type of way.

Sexism is incredibly obvious here, from little things that most people have learned to overlook, all the way to basic human rights issues. I have had very few public meals without a strange man commenting on how much I eat — obviously they have never witnessed what Thanksgiving looks like. My lunch portion has no comparison to the amount of food I wish I could be eating in two days.

Unfortunately, thanksgiving will be just another day for me. We’re not allowed to use the kitchen at my host-house, so we can’t make anything ourselves. And I looked into the big chain hotels around like the Marriott and the Hilton, but nothing is advertising some sort of celebratory meal. Looks like I’ll have to celebrate over chicken and rice, and count all the things I’m thankful for from my room here in Quito. There’s a lot, so it will probably take a while 🙂 I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday, please know that I’m thinking of you and am thankful you’re all in my life.

Buenos Noches.


Week 9: Abby Goes to Peru!

Hello all!

I don’t have much to share about this week. It was a bit of an emotional week for me and I would like to keep most of it in my private journal for myself. I will say though, I was feeling quite homesick. This is the second time I’ve been homesick during my time here in Peru. Of course, I’ve missed my family and friends, but it has only been homesickness once. I am grateful that I have been able to be so strong and that I have held myself together so well emotionally. I have been away for almost twice as long as my record time being away from my family (five weeks), so I am impressed.

I also spent a lot of time this week doing a lot of personal reflection. About who I have become, who I am, and who I am becoming. I have been thinking about my goals that I set before coming here and when I realized that I’m not quite doing as well with them as I had planned I naturally was a bit hard on myself for it. I am always striving to better myself and I get disappointed in myself easily when I don’t pursue this goal as actively as I think I should.

Another thing that has been bothering me is what I want my future to be. I think about this periodically and sometimes, like this week, I get kind of anxious about it. I am a girl with a plan, and when I don’t have a plan, I feel slightly lost. The issue is that I have a lot of passions and I want to pursue all of them, but there isn’t really a way to do this, at least not at any one time in my life. One thing that calms me when I get anxious about my future is that I have developed a way of thinking in that my life is a book. I have many chapters, and while I may not be able to pursue everything in one chapter, I may be able to dedicate certain chapters to certain areas in which I am passionate about. The biggest thing that always gets me is music. Music is my main passion in life. I can easily spend hours at the piano, playing and singing, and it will seem like I just sat down. If it is my main passion in life, shouldn´t I be pursuing it? I wish I thought of this sooner because maybe I would have studied music education, but it is too late to turn back now. So my solution for now is to add a minor to my degree. At least, that is the idea I am toying with. I will need to do some serious thinking about it.

With all of this personality confusion, I have been polling my friends to see what they imagine me doing. I told them to pick from all of the possible careers in the whole world. I don’t know why I didn’t think to get others’ opinions in the past when I’ve struggled with what to make of my future. It was really an interesting survey. I was given responses of both careers I’ve considered and also ones that had never crossed my mind. I got responses from psychiatrist or music teacher to youth group leader or flight attendant. I appreciated everyone’s input greatly. My favorite was suggested by one of my closest friends in Peru. And that was youth ministry. She reasoned that I would have the potential to use my love for children, music, Jesus, ministry, advice-giving, and administrative and organizational tasks. She was so right! It sounds great! I have always seen ministry in my future, but never like this, so I liked having my eyes opened to another possibility.

Anyways, there’s a little emotional check-in for you! I hope you’ve enjoyed the glimpse into my crazy brain. That’s all for now.

Hugs to everyone back home!


Weeks 7 & 8: Abby Goes to Peru!


So I’m still playing catch-up with my digital entries, but I am proud to say that I have been doing a pretty darn good job keeping a journal. I’ve never consistently kept a journal or anything of the sort (I think my record before Peru was 4 days), so it has definitely been a struggle, especially with both my journal and a blog, but I am very proud of how good I have been doing with my journal, considering my lack of experience. Anyways, I’m going to give you a couple updates here about what has been happening since my time in the mountains!

So between trips (the way I measure time here), not much happened. That’s been a common theme this whole term. While there are definitely activities to do in Lima, we never end up doing much other than hanging out with friends and going to school. School is honestly such a low part of my trip. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one to enjoy school, but the education system in Peru is definitely in need of reform. My friends and I joke that the “L” word (logic) isn’t used in this country nearly as much as we are used to. Whether that be the education system, transportation system, or many of the other things on our list of complaints, there just isn’t much logic. We have found ourselves confused time and time again as to why certain things are the way that they are. Usually this is because things are much more complicated than they should be. I really do love this country, though, and I am enjoying my time here so much. I wouldn’t change anything about my trip.

Besides school, we have been keeping busy with various social events. We met up with our program director one day for lunch, which was lots of fun. I enjoyed my first hamburger in Peru. Our program director has kind of been our stand-in mom for us. We know that any time we have any issue we can go to her and she will gladly listen. During our first couple weeks here in Peru we spent a lot of time with her and had great bonding experiences with her and her husband. So naturally, after over a month we missed them greatly. Other things that have kept us busy have been various parties, nights full of dancing, times hanging out will new (and not-so-new) friends, and having countless adventures.

Adventure. That is our Huacachina trip in one word. A very common trip for tourists is traveling to an area called Ica. It is to the south of Lima by about four hours, and generally lumped into this place are the cities of Pisco, Paracas, and Huacachina. We arrived in Pisco by bus and spent that evening and the next day in Paracas. Paracas is in the coastal desert region and is home to large tourism, fishing, and oil industries. Paracas is best known for Las Islas Ballestas, which are islands just off the coast, accessible by boat. However, they are a national reserve, so you can’t actually go onto the islands. They are for looking by boat. What is there to look at? Penguins, seagulls, and sea lions! I know, not too exciting for someone who comes from oregon and has seen the penguins at the zoo (same type), goes to the beach often, and has visited the Sea Lion Caves. But it was still a cool experience to have! My favorite part was the sea lions. They are a lot bigger up close! Not too close though, no worries. I was also excited to see pelicans for the first time! Like Nigel from Finding Nemo, which is one of my favorite movies ever. So of course I was pretty excited about this. We also went on a tour of a bunch of different beaches in the national reserve. They were all different, which was cool. When we got back into Paracas I got to experience my first sandstorm! Like a legitimate sandstorm. Everyone had closed up their shops and restaurants and there were no vehicles on the roads.

Once we eventually came across a taxi, we smashed the five of us (six including the driver) into the taxi and drove inland for about an hour to Huacachina, which was our ultimate destination. Huacachina is a city located smack dab in the middle of a bunch of sand dunes. Why? Well, because oases are cool. The oasis in Huacachina is the center of the town and is honestly probably the only reason Huacachina exists. I was definitely surprised by the scenery. Especially in the towering dunes. I legitimately felt as if I was in Aladdin. I had a hard time believing they were real because I was so surprised. I suppose because I have never seen anything like it in real life. Not even close. These dunes were the source of a lot of thrill and adventure the next day. We went on a dune buggy and sand boarding tour that day. Imagine a ten person Jeep flying over sand dunes like a roller coaster, but not on a track. That’s exactly how it was. While several of the passengers weren’t big fans of the ride, me adrenaline-loving self loved it! I suppose I was a little nervous, but the fun and adrenaline definitely won. I attempted sandboarding down a dune once and was not so successful, which is understandable, considering I have never done any type of sport that involves a board. I ended up with a very large amount of powdery sand caked all over my body and decided to stick to sledding down the dunes on my board. Apparently the safest way to go down the humongous dunes is on your stomach, head first. Scary! But so fun and worth it once you got over the difficulty of getting yourself to go for it. I will never forget the final dune we went down. The bottom was unbelievably far. So far that because of the slight curvature of the dune I couldn’t see the bottom. But down I went anyways and it was a blast!

And that was our Huacachina trip. 🙂



Lisa goes to Ireland: Week 12

This last weekend I went to Edinburgh, Scotland and I’m so glad that I did. It was the more beautiful country I’ve visited since being here, though no one could have prepared me for how cold it was. It even started to snow  

The city was small, but gorgeous. It was also freezing! I thought Ireland was cold, but coming back to Ireland from Scotland felt like summer-I was ready to put my flip-flops on! I don’t feel like I saw a lot of Scotland, it was more of a realizing trip than anything. I spent both my days there going into the city walking along the streets, and soaking up the beautiful architecture. There was also an adorable Christmas market going on with ice-skating, street food, and vendors/booths. It was magical experience.  On our first morning there my friends and I tried haggis for the first time…NEVER AGAIN. It was awful, but a good experience for sure. We also met two guys one from Portland and one from Salem. I’ve been in Europe for 3 months and aside from one other girl studying at DCU from Western, I haven’t met anyone from Oregon let alone the small city of Salem! It was nice to talk to people from my state.. I didn’t realize just how much I missed Oregon until then. 

I feel like I’ve emotionally checked out a little bit since I’ve been here. There’s so much going on back home. I have an apartment, two cats, a job, and a boyfriend that I’m just really ready to get back to. Though I certainly will miss this beautiful place. After visiting Scotland, I’m seriously regretting my decision to not study there.. Seriously, if anyone gets the chance to visit GO! It was a great experience. 

In other news, there’s a student from Western who I connected with who’s studying in London and she’s coming to visit next week. I’m excited to connect with someone back home and share with her some of the great things about Ireland. 

I’m not so much looking forward to going back to school back home. I registered for classes coming in at 20 credits and I’m dreading it. Classes here are very easy. There’s no continuous assessment. You’re given one or two projects at the beginning of the term that will account for your entire grade and you then have all term to work on it. In other words, I never have to go to class. Unfortunately, that’s not how classes work back home and I actually have to attend them. I’m a little bit nervous just because of how relaxed I’ve gotten when it comes to my studies and I wont be able to “slack off” as much as I can here.

That’s all for now. Here are a few pictures of my trip.


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Two weeks into One!


So sorry for the lateness of this post, this one will encompass week 8 and week 9 of being here at Roehampton.

Firstly though, in week 7 we had a fireworks show here on Campus and actually at my college, Southlands celebrating Guy Fawkes night and there were other fireworks shows going on for the rest of the week! It was really nice and obviously in the states, we don’t celebrate this so it was new to experience and really cool.

The weekend before week 8, I went into Central with some friends and we went to the Southbank Centre Food Market that it there every weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There were all kinds of cuisine there and everything looked so good!! After that we made our way to Oxford St. and went to Topshop so one of the girls could get an ear piercing. I love going into Central and doing something different each time,

Enjoying our chicken, flatbread wraps 🙂

The school week was fine, getting a bit harder each week but nothing new there. Monday was also Grand, which is when Roehampton rents out the club Grand in Clapham Junction and about half of my flat went which was lovely.

My 21st birthday was on Monday the 16th and though it’s not quite as big a deal here as in America, it is still a bigger birthday. I had never spent a birthday with my aunties or cousin so as a surprise birthday present, they took me to Dublin, Ireland!! It was amazing. None of us had ever been there before so it was great to experience it together. Our hotel was lovely and the city was decorated for Christmas and we were there for the switching on of the lights. The city is really cute, different from London which is massive and full of huge sky scrapers. Nothing is particularly big in Dublin and the streets are smaller. There is a smaller river that leads to the Irish Sea which you could take from Dublin and get to Liverpool, England. On Sunday night, we went to a traditional Irish pub with live music and it was amazing, I could have stayed there for hours.

Came back to Uni on my birthday and my lovely flatmates had decorated my door with balloons and most of us went out for a meal and cocktails and it was so much fun 🙂

Along the river in Dublin 🙂

With a few of my friends at a cocktail bar, Be At One

Cheers for now! xx

Week 9 perhaps? – Classes, Dublin, and an Hour Glass quickly running out of sand

It’s mid November and I’ve been too afraid to count how many days I have left in this lovely country, but I’m growing more aware of my time left (four weeks, I just checked). School is getting more demanding now and all my class projects are in full swing and all due at the same time. I’m becoming more worried about having regrets when I get home about things I wanted to do here and didn’t. While I’m becoming more busy the weather is getting colder, the days shorter, and my money tighter. Things are pretty against me getting out and seeing more of Dublin and the country. Despite that, I still have one more program excursion to look forward to (they’ve been a great benefit of CIS abroad just like Lisa mentioned recently) and this weekend I have a very good friend coming to visit from home for several days, and we’re going to adventure! Four weeks is still a lot, and I can and plan to do a lot with it.
I haven’t been homesick much here which has been so nice, but I’m wondering how much of it has been because I’m comfortable here, and how much because I’m here with someone I’m comfortable with. Either way, it’s been a blessing. Studying abroad has given me the chance to grow in completely new and unexpected ways, some of which I don’t expect to fully realize till after I’ve been back home for a while. But I’ve also noticed myself growing in smaller ways, toward things I’ve been aiming toward for some time now but was not able to reach at home, where I was beginning to feel a bit stuck. I needed a catalyst to move forward and studying abroad was it for me. I’m already starting to look at things back home in a new light, appreciating things and people more and becoming more hopeful and excited for things I wasn’t before. I’m really excited for the chance to reflect more over the break on my experience here.
I don’t have much else to say now, not much has been going on besides school and the occasional excursion into the city center, but I have a few photos to share from the last few weeks from the Jameson tour, holiday lights, and other random things. Enjoy!

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Tomorrow is a new day

Not every week or day can be wonderful, in any situation, even while exploring abroad (so I just learned). I’m thankful to have my health, my loving friends and family, and all the opportunities that have been given to me. That being said, this week was kind of a let down.

Not all of it though! I went to the musical, which was interesting to watch and fun to experience. It was more of a theatrical choir maybe? Definitely something similar to what a college theater/musical group in Portland might come up with.

Then, we went to the soccer game! Which was super fun to watch and participate in! Ecuador won against Uruguay, even with three injured players, so as of right now we are in the number one spot for the world cup!

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It was a lot less crazy than I expected. At least where we sat, it was a total family affair! We even made friends with the 4 year old boy in front of us, who decided he liked us so much that he would spend the whole game on our laps (especially Lauren’s, she seemed to be a fantastic human jungle gym). And of course the parents definitely didn’t mind getting a couple hours of alone time to watch the game, while we got our face paint poked at and Becca got her beer dumped. Haha

Speaking of snacks, tons of vendors walked around offering foods of all sorts. You didn’t even have to get up. So for $5.50 I got two epenadas, a big bag of popcorn, and like a 20 oz beer (still can’t bring myself to like that stuff–bleh).

On Thursday I also said goodbye to Doctor Palacio and the great people at the dermatology clinic.


Every Thursday meeting is finished off with a fancy (and FREE) breakfast of fruit, yogurt, granola, bread and jam, eggs, coffee, tea, and some sort of sweet. So I pretended like it was more of a going away party for me 😉


Unfortunately, this is where the great times seemed to end. On Friday the 13th the girls and I loaded onto a bus to Riobamba, a city about 4 hours South of Quito. Here we spent one of the scariest bus rides we’ve been on in Ecuador, and unfortunately passed fatalities on the road as we went by. These scenes were yet to be dealt with, so images of dead bodies on the road were in our minds as we swerved along to our destination.

One of the reasons we went to Riobamba was for a train that brings you around a boulder/mountain called the Devil’s Nose. When we went to buy tickets for the train later that day, we were told: 1) the price had gone up, and 2) there was construction, so the bus would ACTUALLY be departing from Alousi, a town 2 hours south, and the bus fair to get there was not included. We bought the tickets anyway, figuring we had already made the trip. At this point Becca’s brand new hiking boots had disappeared from her backpack as well, and we were not able to get any information from any of our bus or taxi drivers about their possible location. Maybe we should check eBay.

After a somewhat exhausting day, we got pizza at a little diner, which comfortingly turned out to be the best pizza I’ve had here (still nothing like the US). As we left the restaurant, it had gotten dark and we talked about going around to check out the night life of the city. However, in this short walk we all had begun to feel uneasy about our surroundings and the people paying attention to us on the streets. Not to mention passing a fatal car crash as we went for ice cream. And right as we decided to head back to the hotel instead, someone tried to pick-pocket me. Luckily, we have been on high alert since Lauren was robbed, and honestly he was just incredibly obvious, so he didn’t get too far before I caught on.

After what we thought was the ending to the terrible turn of events, we came back to our room to hear about the shootings in Paris. And by that time, I felt very defeated. I can’t even really explain the vulnerable feeling you get when something terrible like that happens in the world, and you are over 4000 miles away from all your loved ones. The entire world was hurting and being effected by this act of terrorism, and I couldn’t even hug my parents or my boyfriend. I’m going to be frank: it really sucked. We went to bed eager for the day to be over.

The next morning we went to Alousi, a town much cuter than I expected.

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And here was where I got to take my first train ride ever (unless you count the mini train at Oak’s Amusement Park).

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Which brings you on a 45 minute ride around Ecuador’s beautiful scenery, and then to the previously mentioned boulder/mountain, El Nariz Del Diablo:

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This outing went well, and was even accompanied by coconut ice cream. After heading back Riobamba we had dinner and a girls’ night in the hotel to try and make up for the last evening that didn’t go so well. By 6 am all of us were woken up by our neighbor vigorously hacking up something from his throat for at least 10 minutes. (Who needs an alarm clock when you have flem?)

Sunday we visited a town called Guano before making the trip home. Although small and not much of a tourist destination, I think it was worth visiting (However don’t come here if you’re interested in hearing a talented church chorus):

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Leaving Riobamba we were thankfully some of the last people to secure seats on the bus to Quito. However, here we passed more death on the side of the road, and it was where Lauren’s seat partner tried to rob her while she was sleeping (we’re smarter than that now people, come on).

Next, in Quito, we took a city bus back home. This was where Becca dropped a copy of her passport, and intelligently, I reached my leg out to try and swipe up the passport with my foot. Unfortunately, this left my leg and a terrible position, and then the bus came to a screeching halt, which caused my knee to buckle and I got to feel what it was like to have your patella pop out of the socket and then right back into place. This is why I am sitting on my bed at 1 pm writing this blog post instead of scrubbing in on awesome surgeries. I’m still mad enough I really don’t want to go into more detail.

And lastly, as I crawled into bed thinking that this weekend couldn’t end any worse, I found out a former classmate of mine, who just graduated June 2015, was killed in a hiking accident in the Redwoods. My love and condolences go out to the friends and family of Henry Nittler. He was always so kind, and dedicated to so many different activities. He will be missed by the entire North Eugene High School community, I am sure.

Sadly, this is where the blog post ends. I am desperately hoping for a better week ahead: for me, my loved ones back home, and those suffering across the world. Tomorrow is a new day. And now, after getting all the ugly events off my chest, I’m going to try and look towards the positive and make an effort to end the bitterness I’m harboring. Bad things happen, so now I just can’t let it ruin the short experience I have left here.

Love and appreciate everyone so much, I really should say it more.

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Lisa goes to Ireland: week 11

Sick in a foreign country alone… Not exactly something I ever prepared myself to experience, nor did I want to.

About a month I started to have severe eye pain  and blurriness of vision, so I called my doctor back home and scheduled an appointment for when I got back, thinking that I would be fine until then. The pain continued to increase so I finally made an appointment with a general practioner here in Limerick. That was scary in itself, as I’m a skeptic when it comes to most doctors that aren’t my own. After seeing the GP she said I needed to go to the emergency room immediately. I begged and pleaded with her, hoping there would be some other way to get this resolved, but there wasn’t so I took her advice. The hospital is pretty far from the city centre where I normally go, so I called for a taxi and headed off into the unknown. 

I walked into the emergency room and I can’t think of a time where I was more scared. I was in a foreign country, I didn’t have my mum, and I was about to get medical attention from a doctor that I wasn’t familiar with. I waited in the emergency room for five hours before they finally called me back. Luckily, I met this darling old couple who stayed with me the entire time. It was comforting to have someone there to “look after me” so to speak. After seeing the doctor who performed an eye exam, he told me I was fine but that I needed to see an optometrist. I figured I would just suffer through the pain for another few weeks and would deal with it when I got home. It had just been too long of day. I headed back to to my apartment and wasn’t planning on stopping anywhere, however I knew that I had a sinus infection and should probably stop at the pharmacy. Reluctantly, I stopped at the pharmacy and much to my surprise, there was an optometrist… they closed in 15 minutes but were willing to see me anyone. Within 15 minutes I was in and out of there with a diagnosis and a pair of glasses and what a relief it was!

I’ve since been in bed since, as I have a terrible sinus infection/ flu. Being sick has certainly made me more homesick though. It’s tough being alone in a foreign country without anyone to take care of you when you’re sick.

If there’s one thing this experience has taught me though, it’s that I am capable of doing far more than I think I can. I live alone back home so I’m already use to doing things on my own, but it’s different because when I get sick, or when something goes wrong, I know that my family and boyfriend are but an hour away. It was scary in that the only person I could rely on getting me better was myself. It was a good experience in that I learned I am very capable of taking care of myself, even when I have no one else to fall back on. 

I’m off to Edinburgh, Scotland this weekend and I could not be more excited. Until then, I will be in bed.


Dublin, Ireland week 7 – Hard times traveling the UK

(I’ve had problems with photos and uploading so this sounds outdated, I wrote it Nov. 6 – sorry)

We’re in the middle of reading week, a class-free midterm break, and it’s been off to a very interesting start. Nathaniel and I traveled to Scotland and London, which was really exciting, but we cut our week long trip by four days after we learned some things about international travel. Personally, I learned that I have too organized a personality to be spontaneous when it comes to travel, my stress levels are high when traveling and it doesn’t take much to throw me off balance, and that, because I’m new to traveling sort of alone and to international travel entirely, it’s okay for me to have not learned all the important things about both overnight, as I must have expected I had after living in Dublin for a month.
We talked about traveling Europe during our free reading week for awhile, but only just decided on a schedule last week. Then we didn’t get anything booked till Halloween, and at that point I knew I was going to regret something, if nothing else but that I was only going to get four hours of sleep that night because of our Halloween celebrating and early morning flight. I did later regret not planning this trip weeks before. Through the course of our three day trip and our one day of prebooking, we made four calls to the bank because of a declined card, accidentally bought two sets of tickets for the same flight, had a night train (with beds) cancelled and instead had to take an overnight, nine hour bus ride to London (no beds), got moderately harassed by a crazed, flower-wielding Londoner, missed a bus, missed a plane, and paid probably over three hundred pounds more than necessary and still didn’t make it to Paris and Italy as we originally planned. But that was just the bad stuff. I learned some other things too.
I learned that Scotland is beautiful, and there is a lot of it to explore. We decided to do one of those day tour buses, which I have mixed feelings about because I despise the idea of “photo stops” which feel like the epitome of tourism, but at the same time, I love being able to see so much of a place in just a day. We saw several castles, of which there are 70 in Scotland, and got to explore Doune castle where they filmed some of Monty Python’s Holy Grail. I really enjoyed being able to openly explore that castle and have the audio guide to get more information where I wanted. I tried to imagine living in that castle, sleeping in those cold stone rooms and navigating the narrow spiral staircase in a big dress, being short enough to comfortably fit though the small doorways, and looking out at the gorgeous fall scenery. Two of my other favorite places in Scotland were these two small towns on lochs (lakes) called Inverary and Luss. Both were neat, quiet, and beautifully serene. I would love to stay at either on holiday, twenty minutes at each was not nearly enough.

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London, I learned, does not quite meet the idolized standard everyone seems to hold it to in America. Like Paris or Rome it is endlessly romanticized, and so especially after getting there from our nine hour bus ride, it would have taken a lot to meet or exceed my expectations. It wasn’t bad though, and I’d certainly give it another chance to go see more that may interest and impress me. While there we saw two excellent plays, Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman, and The Woman in Black. Not only were they both excellent shows but they were very reasonably priced. After Photograph 51 we talked with a writer from the New York Times looking for Americans to get insight into differences between European and American theatre. He might use some of our conversation for his travel section article in mid-December, so that was fun. We saw some of the sights in London, the London eye and Big Ben, and those were neat, and found a beautiful park and went to the Natural History Museum. The museum, which was huge and really interesting and where I got to see dinosaur fossils for the first time, was free, and we thought that was wonderful. Museums have always seemed like such a strange thing to pay admission for, and I wonder if that’s just a common American practice.
So, we cut our trip short and headed back to Dublin to relax and watch a lot of the X-files before getting ready for our program trip to Belfast this Friday. Even though we don’t get to go to France and Italy, at least we’re getting to see more of Ireland just like we wanted, and thank goodness this trip is already planned and paid for. Traveling is exhausting.

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Week 8 London 2k15

Hello again!

I cannot believe it is already week eight. I have spent the last week(ish) in Italy and have just gotten back to London. Thus, I am now writing this post!

Italy was amazing! I had such a wonderful time. I went to both Rome and Venice. They were both beautiful in their own ways. The weather was also a huge bonus as it was in the mid 70s the whole time I was there. This time a friend went with me and that was really really great. I enjoyed having someone to talk to and to have meals with. The food was definitely one of the best parts. Although, I think I gained at least ten pounds.

The culture in Italy is much different from London. You almost never see someone eating alone, unless they are a tourist. People in Italy always seem to go out in large groups. Also, basically everyone drinks wine. I do not remember seeing one beer the entire time I was there. People in Italy are MUCH more social than people in London. It isn’t that the people in London are not nice, but they wont just strike up a conversation with you on public transport or in a restaurant. Italy is the exact opposite. At just about every meal the people sitting next to us tried to speak to us. Sometimes they only spoke Italian and a little English so the conversations were minimum but they would still smile at you during the meal and say goodbye when they leave.

One thing I did not like about Italy was all the people around the big monuments who were trying to sell you things. They seriously refuse to leave you alone. You try to ignore them, but they are quite persistent. We had one guy basically chase after us for two blocks before he finally gave up. It made wandering the streets not very nice. Sometimes we would go into a restaurant or shop and look around for a bit just to get away.

Overall though the trip was wonderful and I would love to go back someday. There is much more of Italy I want to see, but didn’t have the time. I leave for Scotland tomorrow for a few days and then in a little over a week my boyfriend is coming to visit. I am so incredibly excited. I hope you all are enjoying your adventures.