Viva L’Italia!

Buongiorno!

I am so grateful that Centennial College has given me the opportunity to participate in their Language and Culture program. Italy has been at the top of my Travel List for a while, and I’ve still only barely skimmed the surface! My goal for this trip was to gain a good grasp of the Italian language, eat as much as possible, and to come home with some new friends and professional acquaintances. I’m happy to say that I accomplished all of the above… but after only two short weeks in Urbania, my Italian language skills could probably use a bit more work!

Urbania was a cute little town, and the people who lived there were just as nice. My home-stay family was very welcoming, and a great help in practicing my Italian! Breakfast was always simple, and afternoon walks around the town never got old.

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There were local cafes where you could grab a cappuccino or some vino, and hangout with your classmates while you caught up with family over Wi-Fi. The culture classes we had were a great way to learn how to live the Italian life. My favourite class was definitely the Wine Tasting 🙂

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We did many day trips, the first of which was to Urbino, a small town an hour away from Urbania. Urbino had much of the same small-town charm, but with much more art and history.

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We visited the Ducal Palace and Basilica in that town, which were nothing short of breathtaking. In Urbino I also got the opportunity to visit the home of painter/sculptor Raffaello, which is now a museum and gallery.

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Venice was definitely the highlight of my trip. I have always been told that Venice is a small city, and it is, but you could get lost for hours exploring all the streets and canals. From the gondolas, to the Rialto Bridge, to all the other hidden gems (like the Murano and Burano Islands), Venice is a city you MUST put at the top of your Travel List –  I’m making sure I go back within the next two years!

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Florence was much larger than I expected. I did not have the chance to go into the Uffizi, but I did spend a fair amount of time wandering the city and enjoying some great food. If you have the chance to visit Florence, go to Pitti Palace and check out their gardens – they are some of the largest and most beautiful in the world!

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Gubbio was by far the most picturesque town I saw in all of Italy. From the cobblestone streets to the mountain-top views overlooking the Medieval town, I was surprised to gain such a memorable experience from such a small little place.

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I will definitely be returning to Rome. There is so much history here, and more things to do than you can fit into a week. I still don’t know which I enjoyed more – The Colosseum or The Sistine Chapel – both were surreal experiences!

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Centennial College and Centro Studi Italiani have put together an amazing program and if you have any interest in Italian Language and Culture, I highly recommend that you look into the opportunities that are available through them. They also have programs to other countries too, so if you have ANY interest in exploring the world and learning about other walks of life, check out what Centennial has to offer!! I simply cannot put into words how amazing this experience was, you just have to find out for yourself! I’m going to see what other places they can take me – Spain next, maybe? Or France? There are too many options to choose from!

Grazie a mille, e arrivederci!

Kyla

Dining in La Rochelle!

Dining out in La Rochelle is an experience in itself. In our third week, Akansha and me tried a bunch of restaurants, for the love of food (and also we were not so energetic to cook).

We were lucky to meet Simona, our Romanian friend who shared our love. She told us about this Italian restaurant, Ragazzi da Peppone and as she says, it was AMAZING!! The classic ambience, amazing food and the decor crossed our high expectations. The best thing I loved about this restaurant is cellar in the basement. You can have a little tour for yourself and choose a wine for the night.

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Another restaurant we tried was a creperie (I know, a restaurant only about crepes). I don’t know about you, but I only knew one version of crepes, with bananas, chocolate syrup and a dollop of cream. Well, actually up until now. There were so many varieties of crepes that I was confused which to pick. As crepe is staple to French cuisine, I wanted to try something authentic. I ordered this three cheese crepe, and was really excited. When it arrived to my table, the smell was Oh-so-good! My host told me that it is a special crepe, because of the cheese used to make it. But that first bite hit me right on my face. It was too cheesy for me. I really wanted to appreciate it. But, I ordered my version of crepe.

This one fine day, we went to this restaurant called Wallilabou Bay. First of all, a pirate was at the entrance to welcome us.

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But that was not the good part. Imagine having dinner in the deck of pirate ship, and not just any food. The food there is amazing. I will talk to you about that in my other blog. This restaurant is really famous for its barbecue chicken, pork and veal. Well it is called “épée du …..”. Also, we tried their pasta and pizza, which both were delicious. This reminds me of a French saying, “Oh! lala!!” 😉

Au revoir, madame et mousieur!

Last week here in Germany, we had Block Week (Reading Week in Canada) and I met up with my girlfriend in Paris and later on went to Rome.  This is my first time in Paris and Rome and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Paris

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The Eiffel Tower was unreal!  Just like in Toronto where they have the CN Tower Climb, they had that here in Paris as well with the Eiffel Tower but it was available everyday.  We decided to do the Stair Climb challenge so we can say that we walked up the Eiffel Tower.

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Louvre is one of the most famous museums around the world and it holds the Mona Lisa painting. 

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Mona Lisa is a portrait of a women painted by an Italian artist named Leonardo da Vinci.  This portrait is the best known and most visited painting around the world.  It was worth the wait outside in the rain to see something this important.

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This cathedral is called Notre Dame and it is the oldest cathedral in the world.  We were able to go inside to walk around but the top of the tower was closed.  Notre Dame is 850 years old and is worth seeing for those interested in visiting Paris.

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Pont de L’archeveche is the name of this bridge and this is where everything started.  What you see on the bridge’s rails are thousands of locks put there by couples.  This is where the original “lock bridge” started from and now wherever you go, there are copycats of Pont de L’archeveche.

 

Rome

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This was my first dish in Rome and it was one of the best pasta dish I ever had.  We found this small little Italian restaurant called Gustosando and it was a perfect way to start my adventure in Rome.

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Visiting the Collosseum was one of the main reason why I wanted to visit Rome.  It was even more incredible after reading about the history and the types of events that were hosted here.  This is something worth to see if anybody has a chance to go to Rome.

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We also visited the Spanish Steps where people just sit around enjoying Wine or Beer.  During our visit to the Spanish Step, we saw a couple getting married right in the middle. 

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This is the famous Trevi Fountain.  There were hundreds of people here taking pictures and tossing coins into the fountain and making a wish. 

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This was a sea food dish from the same restaurant as the restaurant I went to on my first day.  This was also my last meal in Rome and it was an amazing dish.

 

Overall, my adventure to Paris and Rome were amazing but I really enjoyed Rome a lot more than I did Paris.  Both places are worth seeing but I would recommend Rome for both cultural sites and cultural food.

Soupy in the capital city of China: Beijing

BEIJING 2013

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A beautiful sunset view from my apartment on the 25th floor.

When I was accepted for an internship in Beijing for my co-op credit at Centennial College, I quickly consulted a couple friends who studied there about what to expect and how to prepare for my 3 month long visit.  Let’s just say you won’t really know until you’ve experienced things for yourself…I guess that can be a general statement as well…but everything so far has been pretty good 🙂

I’ve been here 4 weeks now and I think I have adjusted quite well, except for the first few days when my body had to get used to the 12 hour time difference!  Beijing is half a day ahead of Toronto 🙂

I brought a Mandarin Language hand book to help me with the basics of buying food and finding my way around the city.  However, I’ve resorted to lots of made-up sign language, pointing at things and poorly pronounced Mandarin words in hopes that Beijing locals would understand my wavering hand motions!  Lucky for me there are digital cash registers and calculators that display the amount I have to pay!  So a word to the wise, brush up on some basic Mandarin skills if you don’t have a personal translator following you around 24/7 😉

Please note there are some people who speak English, but very little.  However, when you’re in tourist shopping areas, that’s where you’ll hear more English than normal.  Oh my, the difficulty I had trying to set up my cell phone service.  Fortunately, the person helping me called her friend who spoke some English on the phone and assisted with the process.  Whew!

My monthly plan 132¥ (approx. $23CAD/mo):

-66¥ (approx. $11.13CAD) voice and data

  • 50 min
  • 200 texts (I get lots of promo texts
  • 300 Mb (eeeeks good thing I have wifi at the apt and at work)

-60¥ (approx. $10.12CAD) for bbm service

-6¥ (approx. $1.01CAD) wifi hot spot service

Beijing Subway

I take the subway to work, only 3 stops, takes me about 25 min. including the short walk from the station.  The subway is pretty cool.  It has many lines that practically cover the whole city with buses and “street buses”!  Yup!

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Now the only issue is how insane it gets during rush hour.  The subway is more action-packed than all three movies combined!  (Horrible joke…I know…lol) But just imagine Toronto subway during rush hour times 10.  Some stops are worse than others but people are pressed up against each other like oreo cookies!  There’s definitely some shoving and pushing going on and there’s not much I can really do but follow what everyone else does lol.  Luckily, trains come frequently and without any major delays.

A round trip on the subway is 4¥ (approx. $ 0.70CAD) and buses are 1¥ (approx. $0.17CAD).  Another cool thing is cellphone service underground!  But I believe it’s only for 4G phone users (which I’m not L).  The first time I heard someone answer their phone in the subway train I was astonished!  For all the Toronto subway users, you know what I’m talking about lol.

Check out the subway lines:

http://www.explorebj.com/subway/

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My prepaid subway pass.  No cash or change used unless its putting credit on the card or you can buy single passes.

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Jinsong subway station on line 10 right outside my apartment, how convenient!

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Entrance to Jinsong Subway Station

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The stations are huge, lots of walking required to get underground, hence the long escalator ride.

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A busy transfer station to another subway line, also a lot of walking required.

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I can’t remember what station this is but some stations have exterior guard doors, and lots of advertising!

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Tian’anmen Station where you get off to visit their famous Square and the Forbidden City, pics and more info to come!

Other things I though were really cool…lol

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 Tennis ball gum!  Delicious!

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If I brought these on the airplane would it be considered a weapon?!

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A talented wax sculptor making a cartoon figure of a person live!  Amazing…I totally have to get one done of myself!

Well that’s all for now folks.  Thanks for taking the time to share my journey in Beijing.  I am grateful for this experience and will cherish these memories forever 🙂  Thank you Centennial College!  Stay tuned for more…

Soupy

On October 13 2013 I went to Stuttgart to visit a festival called “Cannstatter Wasen”.  Cannstatter Wasen is similar to Oktoberfest in Munich but it is much closer to home.  Cannstatter Wasen is located in Stuttgart about 45 minutes from Reutlingen (where I am staying).  Oktoberfest in Munich is more for tourist and first timers which I experienced two weeks ago and it was amazing.  Cannstatter Wasen is more for locals and students.  Reutlingen University rented out 3000 seats meaning 3000 out of 4500 students were in attendance.  This was a lot more fun than Oktoberfest in Munich only because everywhere I went, I saw somebody I knew.

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Furstenberg is the name of the tent that we stayed in.  From 4pm till 11pm, 3000 seats were reserved for our students in Reutlingen. 

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A group of us wanted to get some food in our system before we started drinking in the tent.  And ofcourse we had the typical German food, Brot Wurst (Sausage in a bun).  

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The amazing view from the biggest ferris wheel I have ever seen.

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Also, this is the biggest and longest game stand I have ever seen.

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I was not able to try this delicious looking salmon but it was a unique way of cooking.

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The Wasen started at 9am but Reutlingen’s party only started at 4pm but most students arrived at 3-3:30pm.  By the time 6pm hit, everybody was drunk and dancing to the great performances.

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Round One!

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This is my friend Iacopo and he is from Rome, Italy.  He is also studying at Reutlingen University for International Business. 

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These are my friends from the United States.  Tammy is the one in red and she is from Chicago and Sarah is the one in green and she is from Boston. 

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We were lucky we got the table right in front of the band.  It was great because the band was drinking with us.

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These are my really close friends, Ivan is the one standing right beside me and he is from Croatia, Gabriel is in the green and he is from Italy, Iacopo, and the last person is Mason and he is from Georgia, Atlanta in the United States.  

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This is how we all ended our night, with this amazing view of some of the rides at the Cannstatter Wasen Festival in Stuttgart, Germany.

 

My experience in Germany

Guten Tag Everyone!!!!!!

Well, well where do I start. First thing I can say is I’m very happy I made the decision to come to Reutlingen Germany. The experience so far as been pretty amazing. I finally started all my classes about 2 weeks ago. I have to admit studying here is a little different from Centennial College but, I like the change. I live on residence which is one of the best places to stay for a student. The place where I am living is called the Aquarium, I live with 5 other girls from all different parts of the world and it’s really nice to meet other people from different countries. I’ve been in Germany for just over a month and experienced some amazing places and festivals. One of the place I’ve been to was Tubingen, it’s about 20mins away on train from Reutlingen. I hiked up one of the castles when I was there and the view of the city was breath taking but, the best thing that I have experienced here was Octoberfest. OMG!!!!!! I have no words for Octoberfest here in Germany.

My ‘Vacation’ Weekend in Ghana

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I spent the long weekend (Monday was republican day in Ghana) in a beautiful lodge near Takoradi. I have never been on a vacation, been in the ocean or seen a sand crab for that matter. Upon reaching the beach I was startled by all the holes in the sand and the little critters crawling out of them (sand crabs).

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Sand Crab

While swimming in the ocean I realized exactly why it is called salt water, because the water is extremely salty, yuck!  I spent 2 nights in a charming Eco-hut, which means there is no hot water, an outdoor shower, no electricity (except for at night when they turn on the generator), and no flushing toilet. I ate like a queen, went canoeing with some fellow Canadians and played with some children in a local village. I also went to see the football (soccer) match between Italy and Spain in a local village.  This game was shown in what looked like a barn on a 20 something inch tv with 50-75 locals all crowded and yelling in the hot room. It was quite the ‘global experience.’ It was definitely nice to get away from busy Accra to relax and unwind for a weekend.  Falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean for the first time was amazing.  More and more I am realizing how privileged we are as Canadians, but how privileged Ghanaians are with all their beautiful landscapes and simple stress free way of life.

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Eco-hut
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Eco-toilet
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Fresh lobster
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Canoeing
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Myself and some children in their village
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Village children playing jump rope

Second Week in Ghana

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No Sleep = One Tired Rita

Okay, so I officially started work this week after spending 4 days off to catch up on sleep and adjust to the time change (which is 4 hours ahead of Canada).  Apparently 4 hours of sleep per night does not cut it, it will cause random fits of dozing off while in an upright position and will be followed up with sleeping for 12 hours for the next few days.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” – Irish Proverb

Transportation
I am somehow learning to use the tro-tro system here, which are basically over sized mini-vans that are stuffed like a sardine can with people. In order to catch one, you stand on the side of the street and you wave your hand (fancy stuff huh?).  The trick is to listen for the “mate” which is the person who directs (not drives) the tro-tro to call out the area you are going to. When you hear it you approach the vehicle and they pull over.  You jump on (literally) and off you go.  The price of tro-tro’s is extremely inexpensive.  I can get to work in one tro-tro and it costs about 40 paseways, which is about 22 cents CAD.  So far, I have bruised both of my knees on these contraptions called tro-tro’s.  It’s rainy season in Ghana, so when it rains I totally wimp out and take a taxi, after all it’s only 4 cedis, which is $2.22 cents CAD, that’s still less then the cost of the TTC (this is my justification that I tell myself to make it okay).

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Work Life
Ghanaians work very different then North Americas. They take their time. They enjoy talking to their co-workers and my favourite part is they love to joke around.  Work feels very relaxed and I have spent the majority of my time there reading up on the education system in Ghana, which I have to say makes me pretty angry that it is so poor.  I am pretty glad that there’s organizations like the one I work for, Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) that hold the government accountable for the things they promise to do for education.  My work will mainly be research.  In order to bring the darkness in the education system here to light, a ton of research has to be done, in order to show those in power what is really going on, with cold hard facts.  I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to contribute to the betterment of education here.  After all, we know that the one and only way to eradicate poverty in developing countries is to properly education the people.

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