Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Carnaval 2013 in Salvador, Brazil

Regardless of where Carnaval is being celebrated in the world, the word excites thoughts of people celebrating, endless dancing in the streets, colors from every sphere of the rainbow and continuous sounds that leave no doubt in the hearer’s mind that “there is a party going on.”  Carnaval in Salvador is no exception.
I arrived in Salvador on February 6, the day before Carnaval officially began in Salvador.  I decided to use the first day of Carnaval to gather information so that I could get a sense of what Carnaval was all about and what I could expect.  Gathering information first before attempting to enjoy the festivities of Carnaval turned out to be a good idea.  In Pelourinho, the area that I consider to be the “main old city center square,” there were representatives on hand to talk with anyone seeking information about the events and activities of Carnaval.  There, I received a very helpful guide that provided a schedule of activities and where they would occur.  That guide became my faithful friend.  Using the guide, I was able to plan what I wanted to see, although there were many spontaneous activities that I happened upon while traveling to my planned Carnaval destination.  Of the three areas, circuitos, where planned Carnaval activites were outlined in the guide, I experienced two of them and accidently stumbled on an area not listed in the guide, the Barra area, which actually turned out to be pretty amazing.

I started my Carnaval experience in Pelourinho, which the guide referred to as the Circuito Batatinha. That was a good place for me to start, since the area proved to be less congested and more tranquil than Circuito Osmar and the Barra area.  In both those areas, the crowd was innumerable, and while the atmosphere was electric, it was a chore to try to simultaneously see presentations by bands or performers, listen to the music and hold onto my valuables. 
While the crowds certainly presented some challenges, whether that was trying to navigate the crowds or attempting to catch a bus home, I found the experience as exhilarating as standing in Time Square waiting for the ball to drop at midnight on New Year's eve. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February in Lyon

February so far has been great and Lyon looks beautiful! It snowed every day last week and it was the first time I could really see the beginning of the French Alps since I've been here.

France's big sales just ended, but it was a crazy five weeks in Lyon! France has two major sales throughout the year. One from the end of June to around the beginning of August, and another starting the middle of January to the middle of February. Practically every store in Lyon had sales during this time. Its starts with a small price reduction during the first week of sales and ends with everything being between 50-70% off! I can't imagine what stores in Paris were like the last few weeks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finally Back Home

My return to the states has been difficult. A mixed flurry of emotions. Happiness, happy about my experiences I had and the relationships I created. Grieving, grief about the friends and places I had to leave behind when I boarded my final flight back to the US.
All in all, traveling abroad was the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn't trade my journey for anything. I cannot express how important it is to travel and gain new perspectives on your cultural and intellectual views, religion, family, food and drink, and personal values.
For part of my Benjamin Gilman Scholarship project I created an online series of mini-video blog posts about the differences between American and European cultures. I have included the link below to my first video.
Thanks to Kate and Claire and UMKC for making my trip possible.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Break!

After a long 5 week winter break, second semester has finally started! I had a wonderful Christmas with my family in Heidelberg and New Years Eve was a blast as well! I spent part of my Christmas vacation with my grandparents in Germany and visiting the rest of my family. I was back in Lyon just in time for New Years Eve and to celebrate my 21st birthday a few days later!

Second semester started last week and I decided to enroll in the direct courses at the University of Lyon II.  Last semester I was in the CIEF, a language program offered by the university, but I knew I wanted to try and take direct courses in my major this semester. I am taking political science courses and so far everything is going well. I am in all large lecture classes and the one thing that has been extremely difficult is trying to take notes in class when most of the 300 students are talking for the entire 1hour and 45 minutes of the class! Hopefully it won't be like that the entire semester.