Posts Tagged ‘travel’

From Coast 2 Coast on 2 Wheels: A Freshman’s Bike Trip Across America

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Reaching the California coast after 72 days on the road.

How far can you get in 72 days on a bike?

If you’re Taylor Burdge ’16, the answer is 3,886 miles and 19 states. This past summer, Taylor participated in a program called Bike and Build, which organizes cross-country bicycle trips to benefit affordable housing groups. She raised $12,145 for the cause, which was 270% of her original fundraising goal, and went all the way from Portland, ME to Santa Barbara, CA.

Talk about a full summer.

Essential to the trip were its 13 build days, in which Taylor and her fellow 32 riders pedaled to local housing groups to supply them with manual labor for their projects.

The tasks she and her fellow bikers undertook were not for the faint of heart: reconstructing a convent that would become a 10-family home, weed whacking and building sheds, putting up siding, using a 10-caliber nail gun to build compartments for building supplies, and demolishing a building that was going to be turned into apartment complexes.

“Bike and Build is wild. I have no idea where I’m sleeping tomorrow, what my next meal will be, or even what town I’ll be in. But the constant change keeps everything exciting.”

Bikers for hire.

This was not a slow crew, either. Taylor and her fellow riders would normally get up before 5:30am, and their typical pace was 15-18mph. The group even developed their own vernacular. Riding 100 miles in one day was called a “century ride.” Every three mornings, the bikers would go on a “rando-ride”…their numbers were randomly drawn from a hat, and they would ride with the corresponding group to avoid getting cliquey.

Taylor also kept a blog of her travels over the summer, which I urge you to check out. The posts are moving snapshots of America. If you quickly scan through them, you can watch the climate palpably change as she goes further south and west. You can picture her pack of merry builders battling heat, saddle sores, and flat tires, and hitting speeds of up to 50mph on downhills as they spend five weeks in the middle of the desert.

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You Know You’re in Turkey When…

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

(An American of Turkish heritage in Turkey)

By: Peri Unver

*These observations are not generalizations but merely my own personal ones that I have made this summer.

1.  You take your life into your hands whenever you’re in a car as drivers think the middle of the
road is the way to go.  Also, it’s not a complete day until you’ve been honked at least forty times.

2.  You are greeted first by a hello, how are you, kiss on both cheeks, and a comment on how much
weight you’ve gained.

3.  You can fist-pump to the break-up songs.  At first, it’s hard to tell that the song is telling someone off and it’s unsettling to then hear “Shake your booty on the floor now” (inevitably in the remix).

4.  People on the street are gladly willing to help direct you someplace or help you get out of a
sticky parking situation.  However, smiling (especially in the grocery store) is seen as a sign of weakness.

5.  The food is mouth-watering good everywhere and hole-in-the-wall, home-food places are best
(as in New York).  Places to eat are so clean that even in the food court in the mall there are fresh, open salad bars and buffets.

6.  The color of the ocean simply cannot be replicated and it is easy to see why the name is
turquoise, or “Turkish blue.”  It is easy to scoff (especially when you’re from California) at those with surf boards asthere are no waves in Turkey.

7.  The understanding of making a line at a bank or another established location is a circle.

8.  The price of everything, from clothing to food, is negotiable.

9.  It is a prerequisite that you must be able to sing and dance in order to become a Turkish
citizen.  You must also know the lyrics to Turkish songs as questions about that are always asked on game shows.

10.  In almost anyTurkish home you enter someone will be able to read your fortune from Turkish
coffee grinds (“fal”).

11.  The concept of personal space is a foreign one in Turkey. Wherever you are, someone might be virtually sitting in your lap and not even notice it.

12.  When you are going to watch a show at night settle in because you’ll be there for the long
haul, at least three to four hours.  When asked if the show is still on the answer will always be yes.  (It’s no wonder when on the Turkish version of Wheel of Fortune one of the slots is “tell a secret” and song and dance breaks are taken frequently.)  Also, during commercial breaks, you can indeed make a sandwich, take a shower, visit a neighbor, and still be in time for the next portion of the show.

13.  The relatively new law (2005) requiring accessibility for people with disabilities unfortunately falls short, as I personally witnessed this summer as I used a wheelchair.  Almost everywhere is not
accessible and the ramps are of varying widths and scarily, angles.  (Places from the movie theater and even an orthopedist’s office have a hill of steps and no lifts, ramps, or even handrails.)

Even with all of its quirks, it is a beautiful country to visit with much history, nice people, and amazing food.  So hos geldiniz (welcome) to Turkiye!

The Hitchhiker’s English Guide to Japan

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

or rather, a fancy title for: “My Favorite English Loanwords in Japanese”

——-

Though English notoriously steals words from almost every language in the world, Japanese also surprisingly takes a ton of words from English. Since I came to Japan in April, I’ve noticed that even if I don’t know a certain Japanese word, its English equivalent is likely a perfectly viable word, too. The catch: of all 46 written script characters in the Japanese language, only one is a pure consonant (an “n” sound). And like Stanford students, the Japanese love to shorten and play with words. So when English words get converted into Japanese, they sometimes become entirely unrecognizable to someone who has never heard Japanese before. Additionally, these words may take on slightly (or even very) different meanings once they’ve been converted.

So on the off chance you find yourself stranded in Japan without any Japanese knowledge and absolutely no English signs to point you in the right direction (a rare chance, I admit), here are some of my favorite English loanwords in Japanese and their meanings. They probably won’t actually help you get around anywhere. But I hope they make you smile. For additional fun, try pronouncing them out loud.

  • Posted in a Japanese hostel lobby; a great example of English produced with Japanese pronunciation in mind.

    Word: スマート; Pronunciation: sumaato; English: smart. This doesn’t mean “intelligent.” It means either “stylish” or “slim.”

  • Word: マーカー; Pronunciation: maakaa; English: marker. This one’s just fun to say.
  • Word: トイレ; Pronunciation: toire; English: toilet.
  • Word: トイレットペーパー; Pronunciation: toirettopeepaa; English: toilet paper. Yup.
  • Word: アップ; Pronunciation: appu; English: up. This handy little word has a bunch of meanings, ranging from “increasing” to “an up-hairstyle.” Combine with another loanword, kyaria, to make kyariaappu, and you’ve just created “career up”: getting promoted.
  • Word: スマホ; Pronunciation: sumaho; English: smartphone. Originally sumaatofon. Nearly unrecognizable in its current form.
  • Word: コミュニケーション; Pronunciation: comyunikeeshon; English: communication. You’d think they’d have a common word for this, but for some reason, this hefty English word is the one most often used to express the idea. The only problem is that “communication” is a noun, so in order to make it a verb, they add “to take.” So the verb “communicate” becomes “to take communication.”
  • Word: 飲みニケーション; Pronunciation: nominikeeshon. This is a slang combination of the Japanese verb nomu (to drink) and the English word “communication.” It loosely means “to conduct business while drinking alcohol.” Example sentence: “I am ridiculously excited to engage in nominikeeshon this summer when I do my internship in Japan.”
  • Word: セクハラ; Pronunciation: sekuhara; English: sexual harassment. This extremely shortened word encompasses not only physical/verbal acts but even extends to not hiring enough women in the workplace, for example.
  • Word: バイバイ; Pronunciation: baibai; English: bye-bye. Used very often.
  • Word: アメフト; Pronunciation: amefuto; English: American Football. They shortened the crap out of this one.
  • ラブラブ; Pronunciation: raburabu; English: love love. It means “head over heels” or “lovey dovey.” Also a great illustration of the differences between English and Japanese pronunciation.
  • Word: パンツ; Pronunciation: pantsu; English: pants. Meaning: underwear. Be careful using this one — you may wind up with unintended consequences.

There you have it. You’re now completely equipped to make it on your own in Japan. If anything bad happens, I’m not legally responsible in any way.

What are your favorite loanwords in English? Other languages? Let the fun continue!

Before Traveling, Check for Manifestação

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

This quarter, I am studying abroad in Madrid.  We only have class Mon-Thurs, so the majority of us use our time over the weekends to travel, myself included.  This past weekend, I decided to travel to Lisbon with some friends.  It is a beautiful city with great food (I highly recommend it), and its friendly people and low prices, at least in comparison to Madrid, quickly won our group over.  We had a jam-packed schedule, as we were only in Lisbon from Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon.  As Saturday winded to a close and we were walking to our hostel to get our bags and head to the airport, our group gave ourselves a solid pat on the back.  In a mere 3 days, we had seen all that we set out to see, ate some fantastic food, and met some incredible people.  We had planned so well…. or so we thought.

As we were walking to our hostel, we noticed a fair amount of people in the streets, a pleasant contrast to the relative emptiness of Madrid’s streets on the weekend, and in particular, a small group of protesters in Terreiro do Paço square.  We figured this was normal, especially since the Portuguese economy is not doing any better than the Spanish economy (to learn about that, go read some of George’s old posts).  In fact, Lisbon’s walls and streets are filled with graffiti and posters, proclaiming things like, “Money is taken from the poor and given to the bankers.  More hours.  Less pay.  Less life!”

As we exited the hostel and got ready to head to Terreiro do Paço square, a hub for buses and the nearest bus stop for the bus to the airport, we realized that there were an increasing number of people in the street…and an increased police presence.  In fact, Terreiro do Paço square had been blocked off by the police and streets were being closed for the incoming masses of protesters.

What we expected to see (image from Wikipedia)

What we actually saw (image from Reuters)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were in the middle of a manifestação, or protest. Not prepared for the chaos about to ensue, we figured we would head to the closest square, where we hopefully could catch a bus or take the train or metro to the airport.

Image from the International Business Times

Rolling suitcases in hand, we ran through the crowded streets in the opposite direction of the march of protesters that was headed from the outskirts to Terreiro do Paço square.  All ages of people were in the streets, shouting, holding signs.  Some wore masks, impersonating Guy Fawkes, who has become a symbol of anti-greed.

The manifestação had been called by the CGPT, or Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, to protest the austerity measures that had been taken on by the Portuguese government last May in exchange for a 78 billion dollar loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.  These austerity measures included an increase in sales taxes and increase in public transportation fares, and salary reductions.  More controversially, the government has lengthened workday hours without additional compensation, cut holidays,  and reduced compensations for fired workers.  Since these measures, the economy has only worsened, with employment hitting around 13%.  (more…)

Crônicas do Brasil: A Vida Brasileira

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro. When Jobim and Moraes wrote "Garota de Ipanema," this is probably what they had in mind.

I have now been in Spain for close to a month with BOSP Madrid. Posts on the Iberian Peninsula are in the pipeline. For the moment, though, I would like to present a cultural wrap-up on Brazil that I never had time to do while I was working in São Paulo this summer. If you are not yet excited for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, maybe this will get you started.

First, let it be known that São Paulo is not a conventionally beautiful city. Miles of concrete with few trees, vistas dominated by powerlines and graffiti, and a certain lack of cleanliness make it appear pretty bleak and inhospitable on cloudy days, of which there are a fair amount. Large parts of the city center are completely abandoned at night; there is one neighborhood called Cracolândia because its streets are literally full of crack addicts, who reside right next to the city’s most beautiful railway station. If you live any further than ten minutes by car from work, your daily commute is usually a pitched battle against jammed six-lane avenues, irregular U-turns, and the caprices of aggressive paulista drivers.

Yet São Paulo is unlike any other place I have seen, and I already miss it. The city has a cultural richness rivaling New York’s and plenty of charm if you know where to look. Its size is awe-inspiring. And to put it another way, São Paulo is the best answer to the question of what you would get if you stuck together 18 million Brazilians with a New York work schedule, an LA transit system, and the sensuality of Miami (which, coincidentally, has a large Brazilian population).

What’s more, São Paulo bears little resemblance to the rest of Brazil. The country is almost the size of the U.S. but far more regionalized, so that each state has its own traditions, holidays, food, dialects, and climate. Other Brazilian cities are magnificent in their own ways, and then beyond them is an ecological paradise with few parallels in the rest of the world. (more…)