After a break from traveling – I (Annah) am in Montpellier, France for a semester abroad.
My journey to Montpellier took approximately 24 hours to complete. I began at 8:45am Eastern Standard Time and ended at 12:50pm Central European Time. (This approximates to 24 hours because there is a 6 hour time difference between here and back home).
I had a:
8:45 am drive to the Amtrak Station
11:19 am train to New York Penn Station
3:46 pm train on NJ transit to Newark International Airport
Subsequent shuttle to terminal B
7:10 pm plane to Charles de Gaulle
11:19 am (again) connecting flight to Montpellier
12:50 pm arrival
Going abroad for 4-5 months requires a bit of luggage. I packed a lot lighter than I could have, but was still stuck with a technical pack, a small day pack, a large suitcase, and a longchamps bag.
There were/are a lot of stairs! However, some nice men helped me with the large suitcase:
Getting on and off of the amtrak train, and
Going down many stairs to the NJ transit
Also: The French conduct airport security in a wildly inefficient and slow manner. A line that would have taken me maybe 15 minutes to get through in any United States airport (even D.C. airports), took one hour. It was intolerably warm, inducing sweat to our already odor scented bodies.
In any case, gross, oily, sweaty, exhausted, and almost sick describes the state of our arrival. We all felt sincerely sorry for those who were sitting around us in the airport and on the plane.
In the video below, Margaret and Jenn talk about the planes, trains, and automobiles that we took to get here.
When we arrived, we moved into a couple of hotel rooms temporarily. After a few days of this, we needed to move into our apartments. Sarah and Jacqueline are living in the doll house double apartment, Jen and I are living in two, neighboring, separate studio apartments, and Sorcha is moving into an “open double” apartment with another girl who was in Montpellier this past fall as well.
We would have to move in all of our luggage tomorrow, normally. However, we decided to move in a few things tonight to maintain a certain level of sanity. So–
Jen and I;
Took a 15 – 20 minute detour due to our director’s instructions,
Got lost and received incorrect directions upon asking,
Walked past the street to our apartment, and
Hauled 80 pounds of luggage around with us and then up 5 flights of stairs.
Jen and I clearly make a fantastic team. It only took us about an hour to get there. Our return took about 15 minutes.
Anyhow, I am tired (a good thing seeing as I haven’t been sleeping well the past couple of nights) and will be leaving you with these two videos.
Scroll down to find some additions that I made to my lists and view the video that I was unable to post earlier!
Back in the states and reflecting on my trip…
1 Blackberry (Pickpocketed, Philippines)
Eyeglasses (Disappearing act from my suitcase during the course of some flight… most likely from Laos)
1 Sunglass Case (Lost, Beaches of Bali)
1 Waterproof Timex Watch (Stolen by the Ocean, Surfing in Bali)
You can never be too paranoid about your stuff
Haggling + charming smile = lowest price paid
Price tiering does exist and it’s worse if you’re not Asian (lucky for me!)
That said – if you pass for a local – MILK IT FOR ALL IT’S WORTH.
Things I Hope for:
TO RETURN: I would love to return to Vietnam or Indonesia or Malaysia to do anthropological/political research or to teach English next summer.
Best Dressed: Vietnam
Best (or worst…) drivers: Vietnam
Friendliest to Tourists: Balinese Indonesians
Highest Humidity: Philippines
National Geographic Moment: Rice Terraces, Batad, Philippines
Most Diverse: Bangkok, Thailand or Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Least Diverse: Seoul, Korea
Most Hectic: Hanoi, Vietnam
Che – Vietnamese shaved ice/coconut milk/jelly, etc. snack. Where to get it? A street side food stall
Balinese Food – pork, chicken, meat skins, rice, some skewered item, and a little curry. Where to get it? From a food hawker on the beach in Bali, Indonesia
Coconut Shake – Best one was found in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Hanoi, Vietnam: a long set of streets (it is just one street but changes names three times) above Hoam Kiem Lake. Cheap shopping and pretty good deals if you know how to bargain. Bought: tie set, scarves, two pairs of shorts (very needed)
Express Bus Terminal, Seoul, Korea: Pretty cheap and extensive shopping in this underground mall that Kathy Chung showed me. Bought: canvas shoes
Russian Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia: despite the fact that the guns and knives can no longer be found at this marketplace, it is still a really cool market to walk in and around. Bought: 1/2 kilo of lychee, two kramas, and two pipes – one ivory and one wooden.
Worst Transportation Experience:
Overnight bus from Bali to Surabaya, Indonesia
50.5 hour bus ride from Hanoi to Saigon, Vietnam
Most Humorous Transportation Experience:
The taxi ride in Bangkok in attempts to get to the Weekend Market – see “Taxi #1: Weekend Market,” in this post for more detail: https://monsoondiaries.com/2010/06/27/some-special-taxi-experiences/
The moto ride in Bali from Seminyak to the Ubung Bus Terminal and Caitlin’s not-so-secret admirer – see this post for more detail: https://monsoondiaries.com/2010/07/03/motorbikes/
- At time of posting in Harwich, MA, it was 22 °C -
Humidity: 90% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: overcast
Video Postings finally worked! I have some more overdue videos that I will be posting later on this afternoon/evening… but for now:
So, in Seoul, it seems like there are SO MANY of us Mount Holyoke Women. When I arrived I stayed with Charlina Ahn (MHC 2009). I’m currently staying with Becky Echevarria (MHC 2010). I met up with Charlina and Priscilla Gee (MHC 2011) last night. Today I’m going to see Kathy Chung (former MHC 2010). And there are apparently many more whom I have not seen yet and/or don’t really know.
Anyway, here are some videos from last night’s excursions.
So- for some reason, when I try to post the videos that I took yesterday… The blog rejects them. I’m going to try later but for now, I just wanted to give an update on how I fit in here.
Everyone speaks to me in Korean- but I think that’s also because there are very few foreigners here.
I am also the golden biscuit in a sea of white, white, white Koreans. I’m not even that dark and I stick out like an unwanted plain donut hole in a box of white powdered ones (but who really likes those white powdered ones either? I certainly don’t.)
All for now!
- At time of posting in Seoul, it was n/a -
Humidity: n/a | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: n/a
So after my run and encounter with the old man this afternoon, I headed out for some sightseeing.
Before I start, however, this is an example of the machines that I was talking about in an earlier post.
1. National War Memorial:
So I hopped on the subway – line 4 – from Becky’s apartment to Samgakji station. I walked up, had no clue where to go, and so decided to get a snack at a nearby hawker stand. It was this doughy thing that they had fried(?) on a skewer. You then used a baking brush thing to put some soy-looking sauce on it. It was pretty decent. I asked them in what direction I should walk to reach the memorial… and they had no idea what I was saying. So, I just decided to walk down the street until I either found it or found someone who could tell me.
Well…. I first found a coffee shop where I got espresso poured over gelato (really good) and directions to the War Memorial.
It’s here to commemorate all those who died in the Korean War.