Thursday, October 10, 2013


Las Bas UMKC?
You're doing fine UMKC?

       I have now been in Morocco for six weeks, two weeks away from the semester half-point. The time here passes quickly, but not in the same way it passes in the United States, it is not that anxious, over-zealous, stressful lifestyle. Time passes by quickly here because people actually LIVE LIFE! There is no concept of time, time in Morocco is just an illusion. 
      Living in Morocco has already taught me life is about balance. Americans really struggle with the concepts of happiness because we do not understand how to balance our lives. Moroccans are still able to achieve the same lifestyle, without the fast-pace lifestyle. I am learning, it is okay to relax, to take my time, what is the rush about life? Nothing, just enjoy the ride to the destination, not the thought about reaching the destination. 
     When taking lunch people can leave for anywhere from one to four hours. There are breaks between classes where students and teachers enjoy the cafe on campus. There is fresh mint tea and coffee everywhere. There is never a time limit, when the conversation ends is when it's time to head back to class. Students lounge around underneath the palm trees, scrambling to hide from the blazing sun. Students here are so eager to learn for the enjoyment of learning, not the aspects of the what employment they will receive or what piece of paper they will receive to prove their attendance, but what difference they can make with their passion. 
      Enjoying their lunches and family time. Family is the most important things here and when people call you there friend, they really mean a lifelong friend. There is no rush to get to know anyone, it is the little details in life I am learning to enjoy. Walking around, people watching, eating, and laughing is the most joyous things Morocco has taught me to continue when I go back home to the United States. 
     I realize it is humility that brings joy, sharing what you have with the world. It was definitely an adjustment. I am a VERY uptight, goal oriented person. My transition was more difficult for me than for most of my peers. I was so ready to conquer the world, now I am realizing, it's not about being first, it's not about being the best, IT IS ABOUT what kind of impact you can make on others and on yourself. You can still be successful if others around you are successful, it is about helping each other reach goals. I constantly see people going out their way to create a community. Life is taken WAY too seriously in America. We need to take some notes from our African Neighbors, everything is going to be okay, all good things have perfect timing.
     I know what some of you might be thinking and yes, it can be annoying standing in line at the Mar Jane (Moroccan Wal-Mart) for thirty minutes because the cashier does not rush when ringing up all his customers. These are the precious moments in life when you realize, we are all human. That genuine smile does not seem like a marketing tactic, but a contagious greeting of happiness. 

Enjoy the wait at the grocery line, not on your iPhone, but talking to your neighbor. Who knows?! You just might get a great recipe for Cous-cous. 

It is the simple things in life we remember. 

Maa' Selma ma'
Go with peace,

Ida Ayalew

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hamburg and Visiting an old Friend

From Gdansk, Poland I traveled by plane to Hamburg, Germany. I had been to Germany before in 2010, but this was my first time in Germany without snow! The metropolitan city was very nice compared to my visits to the little villages of my old exchange students. Hamburg has historically been a great port, trade zone, and major place for international and internal commerce since the 9th century. My visit to Hamburg included a tour of their beautiful Town Hall, frequenting their city centre, checking out the expansive miniature museum, exploring the massive center train station and tasting delicious German food and beer.

While in Hamburg I met up with an old exchange student who stayed at my home in 2006. Our first meeting in seven years was a happy one and also greatly past due. We had so much catching up to do as we had both grown up and moved on so much since our last meeting. The greatest thing about having exchange students in high school (family has host five) is that when returning to Europe whether you have a place to stay or just someone to meet for dinner, you're never completely an outsider when you have local friends!

Here are some photos from my brief four day stay in Hamburg.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Seoul, South Korea II

Annyeonghaseyo! Things have finally settled down for me and I've managed to develop a fairly consistent routine. I've still been extremely busy.

Everland Amusement Park: This was incredible! Everland is South Korea's version of Disneyland. Rollercoasters, thrill rides, stage shows, a waterpark, haunted houses, and a zoo. Our day was packed and fun-filled (despite long lines). The best part is foreigners get a 20% discount on ticket price.

Sky Festival: Every year the Incheon Airport Sky Festival hosts two large music events. The first day is classical Korean music. The second day is Korean pop (K-pop). We went to the second day. Though I did not relish standing in line for 7 hours, foreigners got free tickets and I got to see 17 of Korea's top K-pop artists.

Chuseok: The Korean Thanksgiving holiday (Chuseok) is a time when Koreans remember their ancestors and eat a lot. It also used to be the best time to sight-see in Seoul, because everyone left town. This was partially true. On the first day of Chuseok I did some shopping in Itaewon. Itaewon is the foreigner district in Seoul and is the best place to find clothes that will fit Western bodies. The stores in Itaewon were dead and the vendors were desperate to sell, so I got some really great deals.

The second day of Chuseok, I decided to take on the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul all in one day. They are all within about 4 miles of each other and are beautiful. They were packed with visitors, but it was nice to see the Koreans acknowledging their Joseon ancestors. I still intend to go back to Changdeok Palace to see the "Secret Garden" (the line was way too long). Also, entrance into the palaces and the Korean Folk Museum (which I also visited) was free because of Chuseok!

The last day of Chuseok I went to Bukhan Mountain National Park. This was the most intense and fulfilling hike I've ever been on. The mountains outside Seoul are beautiful, but hiking up steep walkways for 6 hours was murder on my legs. I was literally soaked with sweat when I got off the mountain. However, I met some really friendly people along the way. Many of the Koreans I encountered were eager to strike up a conversation with me (even if we couldn't understand one another). Along the trails were nestled several Buddhist temples with incredible views.

Korean Folk Village: The week after Chuseok, the international exchange group on campus arranged for a trip to the Korean Folk Village and the national museum. The folk village reminded me of a Korean Renaissance festival. They have a completely restored Joseon era village with actors in traditional Korean clothes. We participated in traditional pottery making, watched folk dances, tight-rope walkers, and an equestrian show. Afterwords, we visited some incredible exhibits at the national museum.

Busan: After the folk village, the study abroad agency took us across Korea to the ocean-side city of Busan. They shacked us up in a very nice hotel for the weekend and took us on a two-day tour of the city. We enjoyed a ferry ride, Chinatown, a world famous fish market (where we ate delicious sea eel), swam on the beach, visited a beautiful seaside temple, and visited the APEC House where the 2005 APEC summit was held. Busan is an incredible city.

It has been a very busy three weeks and things do not appear to be slowing down!

Annyeonghi Gyeseyo!

Update: Almost forgot! Thanks Dr. Jerry Richardson at UMKC/SCE/CME, I was able to visit the Korea Institute of Construction Technology (KICT). KICT helps manage the infrastructure of Korea and does the majority of water resources and building fire research in Korea. I was able to meet the president of KICT, Dr. Hyoseop Woo, and go on a tour of KICT's labs here in Seoul. The visit was incredible! KICT's labs are world class and heaven to an engineering nerd like me.