Back from Hong Kong, Feeling Like a Changed Person

It’s been a week since I’ve returned and wow are things different.

In these few lines of my last blog post, I would like to talk about how study abroad affected me as well as tell you a little more about Hong Kong. If you are thinking about studying abroad in Hong Kong or would just like to learn a lot more about it, I’d also want this to be your best resource.

First, here’s Hong Kong through my eyes.

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Practicing My Faith While Abroad

Today I rejoice in the first homily in Mexico that I could actually understand — it was about love being more important than power — and the first two Bible readings I was able to recognize during Mass. It was a neat outdoor church with a roof — una iglesia abierta, I was told — and we attributed the clarity of the priest’s voice to the absence of walls. It was a nice change from the other churches, whose roaring fans and echoes from the microphone were a recipe for frustration and not registering anything the priests or speakers had to say.

Before my trip, I had in my mind a specific pattern of practicing my religion while in Mexico. I would attend a Catholic university, so I would go to Mass everyday before class and I would check the Adoration and Confession schedules to try to make it to each at least once. Since Mexican towns have churches like a centipede has legs, I would have no problem finding Mass on Sunday, and my host family would take me.

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Some Reflections After Two Months in Madagascar

In less than two weeks, I’ll board a plane, spend a lot of hours in the air and arrive home in California. It’s strange to think about returning to the U.S. It’s my home country, yet it’s such a different world from here.

I believe that once you have an experience where you learn and grow and stretch yourself, you can never go back to being exactly the person you were before.

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The Discovery of Meaningful Living through Cena, Antoni Gaudí

I had a melting pot of emotions before going international — this was my first time going abroad and “flying solo” (literally). I had no idea what to expect. All I had brought with me was a suitcase of comforts to remind me of home and the adequate ability to speak Spanish.

I was a bit uneasy and anxious at the thought of beginning this journey alone. However, as I touched down in BCN, all that fear had vanished.

I’ve been living in Barcelona for about a week and already I’ve been humbled by the culture that embraces me with hospitality, kindness and simplicity. If I’m keeping count of the number of touristic activities that served to educate me on the beautiful, unique qualities of Spanish culture, it is of considerable worth. Yet, as I truly reflect on processing the value hidden behind these excursions and my personal interactions with the natives of Barcelona, it carries even more significance.

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Basketball, Construction and Volunteer Life in Madagascar

Five weeks down, five to go!

While my first two weeks in Madagascar actually felt like two weeks, the next three weeks passed so quickly that I can’t believe I’m already halfway done with my time here. Since I’m here for 10 weeks total, I have the unique opportunity to watch many different sets of volunteers come and go. It’s been wonderful to meet and get to know people from all over the world, but it also means that most of them will leave long before I do. It’s really nice to have friends who are here for a longer period of time like I am, but I enjoy getting to know everyone no matter how long their stay is.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks, but here are some highlights.

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Don’t Even Try to Escape the World Cup

Let me start off by mentioning that the country that I am living in (Ecuador) did not qualify for this year’s World Cup. That being said, talk of soccer is still heavily present in every conversation and every inch of this country. If there’s not a game being played at the time, there will be conversations surrounding yesterday’s unbelievable game, or the anticipation for tomorrow’s game.

Got somewhere to go? You don’t even have to worry about missing the game when you leave the house, because it will be broadcasted on the radio in the car on your way over. And I can say with certainty that it is being shown at your destination. If there is a television showing the World Cup, you will find people flocking to watch, even if they are not customers. Everyone is invited to take part. And surprisingly, I have never seen anyone turned away from watching even without a purchase.

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Conversational Music

“I need you,” newfound friend Javi asserts.

“Why do you need me?” I demand.

Javi: “Para cuidarte, amarte y estar a tu lado” — to take care of you, love you and be by your side.  His words sound lovely but remarkably familiar. They come directly from music lyrics.

Tinged with sexism, many of my conversations with Dominican males took a — romantic turn.  Out of nowhere, men love me, need me and miss me. One suggested that I make him “feel brand new” — straight from a 1973 Stylistics hit song. We listen to merengue and bachata music, traveling to daily excursions on our chartered bus. Sometimes, the lyrics are in English, unmistakable. Hence, I know the source of Javi’s quixotic lines.

Music profoundly impacts Dominican discourse.

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New Experiences in Thailand

To say I was under-prepared for this journey would be an understatement. I wasn’t under-prepared in the sense that I didn’t know how to navigate airports by myself or travel in another country alone. As cheesy as it sounds, I was under prepared for the amount joy and pure fun that would happen on this program.

My first impression of Thailand was that it is more industrial than I imagined. A lot of the movies and pictures you see of Thailand are of the gorgeous beaches and thick jungles. Which is true — there are many beautiful beaches and being in the jungle here feels like you’re either on a movie set or on another planet.

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