Friday, July 31, 2009
I will spend my first week in Colombia in Bogotá at orientation with my fellow Fulbrighters and then depart the 7th for Cali where I will be staying temporarily at the Universidad Santiago de Cali (the university where I will be working) until finding permanent housing. Even now that my departure is so close, it is still difficult for me to believe that I am going. Before I know it, I know that I will be integrated into a new routine with new people, new ideas, and new issues to fill my mind. Until then, however, it will be transition time. I am going with an open mind, ready to take things one day at a time, ready to face each day with confidence and enthusiasm. Wish me well! Hope that all of you who are reading this post are doing well. Let me know what is going on with you, wherever you may be. Drop me a line at email@example.com!
Before heading off on this second summer adventure, I had never really considered traveling to Germany and had always dreamed of making it to Scandinavia. In my imagination, Germany was full of a people with a harsh sounding language without the glitz and glamour of my imagined France or Italy. Scandinavia, on the other hand, was chock full of palaces, canals, harbors, ancient building, and a Viking heritage. These were my presuppositions. I was quite pleased to find that after spending about a week in each locale, I found something to love in them both.
Berlin is a world apart from Copenhagen or Stockholm. It is large, gritty, a bit rough around the edges. One ride on the metro will tell you that the style is overwhelmingly “alternative”, especially in old East Berlin. At any given moment, one is likely to see at least a quarter of the population walking around with the nation’s most popular libation – beer! Berlin is currently suffering from unemployment rates officially in the mid teens, but most likely at almost 20%. This statistic was given by more than one Berliner I met as a potential reason as to why cafés are packed at all hours of the night and morning and clubs run until well after dawn. I am not quite sure if the logic holds much water, but no matter what the reasoning, Berliners, without a doubt, know how to sit back, drink some pilsner, and enjoy life. Whether in Tiergarten (Berlin’s version of Central Park) or at a beach bar along the river, a good time seems to be had by all. I spent five days in Berlin (and one in Potsdam, a town full of Prussian royal palaces such as the one in photo # 3), seeing the traditional sites, such as the Brandenburg gate (photo #1) and exploring its plethora of museums, but also exploring unique neighborhoods full of hipsters or Turks. A highlight of the Berlin experience for me was that I was able to meet several students attending university in Berlin through a friend of a friend. They took us out, chatted with us about politics (German and American), life as a Berliner, and even Colombia! I met a German guy who had lived in Venezuela for a year and traveled all through Colombia as well, including Cali, which sparked quite the conversation. The world is small. Every time I meet someone on one continent who holds a wealth of information about life on another I make this realization yet again.
From Berlin, my friends Hugh, Neeta, and I hopped on an incredibly clean and efficient train headed to Copenhagen. We sped past wind turbines dotting the countryside and along the water, reminding me quite vividly of the scene on Prince Edward Island I had witnessed a mere two weeks previous. Once we reached the coast of Germany, our train scooted into a ferry (yes, that is correct, our train got on a boat!) in order to cross over to Denmark and we were able to take in an absolutely sublime late night sunset aboard the ship – beers in hand of course. Copenhagen was a fairy tale. Picturesque homes where the likes of Hans Christian Anderson once lived line canals to create a scene that seems to come right out of a story book (photo #2). Spires fill the air from ancient churches and castles. The ancient is juxtaposed with the modern as sleek Danish design shows its prowess in structures lining the main canal such as the national theatre and opera house. Rosenborg Castle (photo #4) stands within one of the loveliest parks in which I have ever had the pleasure of picnicking (and what a picnic it was, complete with curried herring, delectable shrimp, and scrumptious meatballs all in open faced sandwich form – the famous Danish Smorbord). I was also able to take in some Viking history as Neeta, Rachel and I wandered through the national history museum, complete with grand Viking ships and helmets. The last vacation the three of us took together was to Mendoza, Argentina which we deemed the city that was “lovely.” Although this word would have fit our Scandinavian destinations as well, we were determined to come up with more and thus decided upon “cute” and “efficient”. This is Scandinavia…or at least Copenhagen!
My final stop was the most beautiful city I have ever seen to date – Stockholm (photo #5). The city is made up of over a dozen islands atop which lie sprawling parks and ancient buildings. With the help of the glistening water in the harbor and twenty hours of sunlight, this city shines like a true gem. During our stay we meandered through Djurgarden, flew through the archipelago on an inflatable raft at 45 knots, dined in the old city center of Gamla Stan, gazed at amazing works of art and a stunning collection of photography at the Modern Museum of Art, lounged and picnicked (yet again) in a sculpture garden overlooking the city, and heard Theresea Andersson play and speak a lot of Swedish in an intimate venue just south of the city. It was the perfect way to end a great trip full of good friends, new sites, and new insights.
As I hopped on my plane in Stockholm bound for Atlanta I was filled with sadness. Partially of course this was because I was leaving my friends with whom I had traveled for nearly two weeks, partly because I wasn’t ready to leave Europe. Mostly, however, because at this 10 hour resting point in my otherwise busy and people-filled summer I grasped my new reality a bit tighter that I had before. After this summer full of adventure I am not heading back to comfortable Evanston. I am not going back to all those people I have come to love so much over my four years at Northwestern. That part of my life is over. It has reached its completion. There will be no more college. Surely I will maintain countless friendships from those great years. Surely I will always remember these years fondly. Surely they will never return quite the way they were.
Back in the South, I took a fun-filled weekend trip to Charleston with a couple of friends from Northwestern followed by a great couple of days at the lake with old friends from high school. Friendships continued. Relationships matured. I got a tan. Life kept on and keeps on, ever marching towards the future.
In other news, I would highly recommend going to see (500) Days of Summer. It is positively lovely.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A whopping 72 hours after I had officially nabbed my diploma in Evanston, I was in Manhattan with my parents soaking up some theatre and headed of to the Maritimes! We waste no time in the Cheadle family. I will try to keep this post quite brief – just sharing some photos with commentary and such. Our trip was broken up into four major sections: Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, The Bay of Fundy, and The Nova Scotian South Shore - here's a little map in case you're not quite sure where all that is!
The first leg of our journey was on Cape Breton Island (the northern island off of Nova Scotia) where we drove and hiked portions of the Cabot Trail filled with green mountains dramatically jutting out of the North Atlantic (photo #1). As we drove we stopped in small fishing villages like White Point (photo #2) to soak up the picturesque sights, enjoy delicious seafood, and talk to the locals. Throughout our trip, but especially on Cape Breton Island we found the people to be incredibly open to conversation and very warm. Stories of lobster fishermen's plight with a short nine-week season, sons and daughters headed off to the big city of Halifax or out West to Alberta to find jobs (dwindling quite quickly in Atlantic Canada), and Scottish and Acadian ancestors were told with matter-of-fact tones always laced with pride and a love for the place these people lived and their rich history. It is also on Cape Breton that we experienced our first of two Scottish ceilidhs where fiddlers, step dancers, and story tellers gather and put on quite a show. Cape Breton island is deeply rooted in its Scottish heritage with patches of Acadians here and there, many of whom maintain the French language thanks to centuries of isolation that ended only in the mid-twentieth century. For a listen in on some past ceilidhs check out capebretonlive.com and click on the past shows link on the right hand side. There is a plethora to choose from and I think you will really enjoy, so put on a tune right now while you read the rest of my post (I'm currently listening to #26, quite good)! I was absolutely enthralled with the music and spontaneity of everything that goes on - certainly a highlight of the trip.
From Cape Breton we traveled on to Prince Edward Island, with landscapes of bucolic bliss through one car window and a blue ocean crashing against red soil topped by crisp green grass out the other - trully stunning. Our time on Cape Breton consisted of visitng lighthouses, biking on the incredible Confederation Trail, another ceilidh, and a delicious lobster supper (photo #3) along with plenty of ocean-side relaxation. As some of you may know, PEI is also the epicenter of all things Anne of Green Gables, being the birth place of author Lucy Maud Montgomery; however, we chose the path less traveled and avoided Anne-mania all together. Sorry to any of you who were ready to hear every detail of the house at Green Gables (I know there are a few of you)...it ain't happening.
Our next quick stop was along the Bay of Fundy, site of the highest tides in the world often going up and down the height of a four-story building every day! The Hopewell Rocks (photo #4) are a wonderful place to take in the dramatics of it all. The photo here is at low tide when you can walk along the ocean floor surrounded by seaweed and rocks that are underwater for the majority of the day - a rather surreal experience. While in New Brunswick, we also stopped by our second French Fort of the trip (the first being at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island) at Fort Beausejour, taken over by the British and seeing a bit of action during the American Revolution as well. I became intersted in the whole French-British North American rivalry while in Quebec last summer after visiting a wonderful museum focusing on French-America from Quebec to Louisiana, Guiana, and everywhere in between. It was wonderful being able to delve even deeper into the history at these sites and by talking to a few Acadians we met along our journey.
To finish up the trip, we headed to the 'big city' of Halifax - home to everything young, hip, and chic in th e Maritimes while still maintaining its history and Maritime spirit. Heading south along the shore from Halifax, we discovered more lighthouses such as the one at Peggy's Cove (photo #5) as well as towns that seemed they should have been on Martha's Vineyard, all culminating in a stop to Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site. The colors and architecture of the homes were quite a site to see and I really felt taken back to another age about a century or so prior to our own.
Well there you have it, a rather stream-lined version of the first of my summer vacations. What I will remember most from the Maritimes (besides perhaps the joy of eating mussels, fish, and lobster nearly nonstop) is simply the atmosphere created by the people - full of perserveance and kindness, always ready for a chat and a good time. I hope that all of your summers are off to great starts as well! Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what's new with you - I'd love to hear.