Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Freedom During Lunch Break

Freedom During Lunch Break
Something different from America is lunch break for students. In Hong Kong, the students in Secondary School, similar to our high school, leave school grounds during lunch break and eat at restaurants in surrounding neighborhoods. It’s weird to see because I remember in elementary and high school leaving school grounds unattended was NOT allowed, and students would get in big trouble if they had.
But here, students have that freedom everyday. It feels so strange to see because I would think some students would wonder off and get into trouble during lunchtime, but they must not here. I also remember hearing from a few girls I work with that school is highly stressed for students. Mostly from their parents, to do well and get into college or university after secondary school. Being told that and seeing the students leaving on their lunch break makes me think that they wouldn’t dare do something disruptive during the lunch break. Maybe because they don’t want to get into trouble and loose their school opportunities. Unlike America, where kids often fool around and get into trouble but still get into colleges and universities. Makes me think that unfortunately a lot kids take that for granted the States.  

Xx Christa

Walking Tiles

                       “Walking Tiles”
For aches and pains of the body. The rounded stones push on pressure point in your feet, similarly to acupuncture.  I saw an older lady rocking back and forth on the ‘walking tiles’ in a park and was curious what it felt like. I decided to join her. Felt strange at first but very glad I chose to do so. The stones feel SO good for your entire body. I walked on the stones and rocked like the older lady for about a half hour. I actually didn’t want to get off the walking tiles they had felt so good. When I stepped off and put my shoes back on I felt rejuvenated. I had been walking for several hours and started feeling tired but after a short break the walking tiles, I felt that I could continue walking for a while longer...
Now, when I pass these walking tiles in a park I always stop to give my body a boost! The Yin Yang symbol can represent different things when talking about; energy, medicine, love, female/male and some others, but it's main representation is balance.

Monday, December 10, 2012


                            (My favorite meal: Hong Kong Style, Curry Fish Fillet with Rice)

I have acquired a method to use chopsticks; it works very well for me. It is not the 'proper' technique and have been stopped to be corrected for method over and over again!
I even had an elderly man the other day, while out at a restaurant from across the restaurant, bang HIS chopsticks at me to grab my attention and indicate that I was holding them wrong. I literally ‘laughed out loud’ and the elderly man smiled. I have discovered that most local people enjoy or are amused that I eat at the local restaurants; maybe it is unexpected to them. But honestly I don’t think twice about it, I love the local Asian food and believe when you are in a country you should try to experience as much as you and get acquainted with the culture, so dig in!
I have also met local people that admit they don’t hold their chopsticks the ‘proper’ way either. My method is successful for me! I can hold and eat with my method for mostly all the food items and at face pace! (Like the Chinese people) Some people agree that method works but others are still determined to teach me the proper technique. 
I recently realized when I cook at my apartment, where I don't own chopsticks, only knife and fork. I don't enjoy the meal as much..  I have become pretty acquainted with the chopsticks as main utensils. I wonder if it will feel strange returning home two months after being in Hong Kong, to a knife and fork all the time ?
Enjoy travels!
Xx Christa

Hong Kong

                                      (Ferry ride my internship, view of Hong Kong Island)

Hey -

        It's really expensive to get a visa for U.S. citizens, so I have decided to only go into China with my second internship. Since, with the second internship I will stay in China for a longer period of time, 5 days at a time. For a single-entry Chinese visa is approximately $170 USD. My first trip into China and the factory is this upcoming Wednesday. It was really easy to get a visa. Everyone at the office speaks English and it takes about 4 days to be processed. All you need is your passport to get a Chinese visa. I can't wait to see what the factory and country are like.....

         Hong Kong had a period of about a week and half of a lot of rain. Very disappointing because so much of HK activities are outdoors. Everyone was really bummed. From what I have heard though, it's not the norm for the city to rain that much. Recently temperatures have dropped to 55-75 degrees. Whereas, only a few weeks ago it was between 75-85 degrees everyday. Super nice :). I play a lot of volleyball here. Local people and some expats are really into the sport. It is competitive but fun. The team members usually go out to dinner afterwards. It has been my favorite thing to do in Hong Kong so far.

      I walked up to 'the peak' the other day with my flatmate. 'The peak' is a steep hill that overlooks most of Hong Kong's islands and bodies of water in between. At the bottom of the hill is the city but on the way up it is dense with trees and wildlife. At the top of the hill, 'the peak', there are residential buildings, a small mall and restaurants and things. It's a beautiful view of the whole city. I plan to do more sight-seeing when I am finished with the internship and have also planned a trip to Thailand at the end of December with a friend that I am excited about! We will stay in Bangkok for two nights, a couple nights in Kanchanaburi (northeast of Bangkok). There, we will live in a bungalow and go elephant trekking and swimming with elephants and to a tiger temple. All Eco-friendly activities. My friend and I made sure they were Eco-friendly because we read unfortunately that some places are not. Some of the local Thai people overuse their elephants for tourist attractions, not allowing the elephants enough rest or shade. And can be mistreated by not receiving care for injuries or infections. But many people are aware of this issue and therefore post information online about Eco-safe elephant attractions. The Eco-friendly establishments are even given awards for their upstanding treatment towards their animals. From Kanchanaburi, my friend and I will fly to Phuket and stay at a surrounding island (haven't decided which one yet). There, we will go snorkeling, hiking, visit a big Buddha and temple, sea kayaking at Phi Phi Island and most likely some spa treatments. All of these activities are fairly inexpensive in Thailand. Many people from HK area go to Thailand for vacation. December and January is the best time to go because it is Thailand's ideal climate.

           I saw a cast and set for an American movie coming out in 2013 the other day, the film will be called The American Tourist. They were filming outside my apartment in Central, in the middle of the food markets. And a few days later I saw them filming in one of the metro stations.

          As for the nightlife in Hong Kong, there is an area called Lan Kwai Fong or "lkf" where a lot of expats hang out. Its a lot of fun. The clubs play really good music. I don't think they ever close either! I have been out pretty late a couple of times and saw no signs of shutting down. I asked a few people about it and they believe the clubs close at 8 in the morning! Pretty wild. But the city is really safe, I never feel in danger. At least, I can speak for the areas of Central, Wanchai and Causeway Bay. Cabs are plentiful and inexpensive. You can get home anywhere on the island for under $10. Usually cost me about $5.

This week I will go to China and a Christmas party for the company on Saturday! Enjoy exploring!!

Xx Christa

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Holy Land : Israel Part II

Jerusalem, IL
November 11- 23, 2012

Mid way through the trip, the militant group Hamas, located within Gaza, and Israel, signed a ceasefire, which made tensions much lower within Israel, with everyone we were with, and our families and friends back home.

This is me in the cave systems under the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

This is a picture of Me and my girlfriends Dad in Safed.
 Safed is a city in the Northern District of Israel located at an elevation of 2,953 ft, the highest city in the Galilee and in Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters. Since the sixteenth century, Safed has been considered one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias;  since that time, the city has remained a center of Kabbalah, also known as Jewish mysticism. Due to its mild climate and scenic views, Safed is a popular holiday resort frequented by Israelis and foreign visitors.

At a boat yard in Tiberias

My girlfriend and I in the Ramon Crater, the largest natural crater in the world caused by erosion. 

This is me in a crater, within the largest natural crater in the world. (Ramon Crater)

This is me and my girlfriend floating in the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 1,388 ft below sea level, Earth's lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 1,237 ft deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water.

This is my girlfriends sister, brother, and me, swimming in the Dead Sea.

This is my girlfriends brother, her, and me on a buoy that we swam out to in the middle of the Sea.

This is me on the Snake Path up to the historical site of Masada.
Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Herod the Great built palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. The Siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire towards the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Jewish rebels holed up there. Masada is Israel's most popular paid tourist attraction.

This is a view of the top of Masada. We climbed up the Snake Path by foot, and then later took the gondola back down.

This is my girlfriend and me sifting through debris for bones, pottery, and ancient artifacts from the Tel Maresha excavation sites.

This is me in the Tel Maresha caves, with only a wax candle to light my path.

This is the family, and guide that I had one of the most memorable vacations with, and this night capped my study abroad experience. I think it should be mandatory for everyone, not even students, but  everyone should explore the world, be the minority, and live life on the edge of the seat a little more. There are too many people who take their lives for granted, and those that are not living up to their potential, and those who are ignorant to other cultures, or ethnicities. My study abroad experience has molded me into a humble, adventurous, passionate, creative individual with a respect for my fellow man, and mother nature.

Arrival : Israel Part I

Tel Aviv, IL
November 3-10, 2012

I arrived to Israel at about 5 in the morning anxiously a waiting customs and what hoops I'd have to jump through there as well. As it turned out, customs wasn't anything to worry about, I just got my passport stamped and I was on my way. I retrieved my suitcases and searched for the exit, and the icon depicting a train. I found an ATM to take out some cash and I bought a train ticket to the location my girlfriend gave me, which was 'Tel Aviv Hahaganah'. I got to my stop, and stumbled my way through some broken conversations to find out the next trains number was and where it was going. I was getting off at the first stop in Be'er Sheva, North University Station, where the school dorms were. I dropped off some of my belongings and we took the train back to Port Haifa. Port Haifa was the city where we were going to meet up with my girlfriends parents. 

This picture is fromm our first lunch together in Israel in Port Haifa. I got a Veal Shawarma Fattoush with  Limonana. It was the Winter months in Israel and I was still in a T-Shirt. I arrived to Israel in the midst of some serious tension between Israel and a Palestinian terrorist organization operating in Gaza. We tried to stay up North during our travels, because Gaza is closer to Southern Israel, which is where the majority of the rockets hit.

This is a picture of me with my camera at a beach on the coast in Haifa. This beach was one of the first places we visited in Israel, the water was so clear, the rocks were porous and textured, and the sun felt great! I left London in the fall when it was freezing and came to Israel in the Winter and the weather is phenomenal.

This is a picture of my girlfriend and I in Bet She'an. My girlfriend is studying abroad in Israel. We hiked up a historical plateau in Bet She'an that was the place where of a plethora of civilizations have been built.

This is a pictures of my girlfriend, her family, and I in on the highest point of Bet She'an.

This is a passage into a chamber in Herod's Palace in Caesarea Maritima.

Herod also known as Herod the Great was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis."The Romans made Herod's son Herod Archelaus ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea from 4 BCE to 6 CE. He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (sometimes referred to as Herod's Temple) and the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima.

 Here is another chamber weaving through the chambers at Herod's Palace in  Caesarea Maritima.

 This is an archway within the chariot grounds in Herod's Palace in  Caesarea Maritima.

This picture is from a jeep ride along the Golan Heights, which is on the border of Syria.

Map of the Israeli border in relation to Syria.

This is my girlfriend and me at The Western Wall, or The Wailing Wall, in Jerusalem.
Israel is such a beautiful and exciting place. It is no wonder the people of Israel put their lives on the line everyday and stand up for their freedom.

Loose Ends: London, UK

London, UK
October 26-November 2, 2012

With my stay in London coming to an end I decided to go to some famous places and see them for myself. On my way to Savile Row I came across a cool bike with an actual steering wheel instead of handle bars, and a license plate.

This is Regent street, a popular street to shop on with many brand name stores, it connects to Oxford Street and leads to Savile Row. The lights above the road were set up in preparation for the holidays, each light structure representing one of the twelve 'Nights of Christmas'.

 This is the street view from the Picadilly tube stop down the road looking at Regent Street and Oxford Street.

Savile Row is a shopping street in Mayfair, central London, famous for its traditional men's bespoke tailoring. The term "bespoke" is understood to have originated in Savile Row when cloth for a suit was said to "be spoken for" by individual customers.  The short street is termed the "golden mile of tailoring", where customers have included Winston Churchill, Lord Nelson, Napoleon III, and Mohammad Ali . Being a Design and Merchandising major, I had to visit Savile Row and soak up the fine craftsmanship and history of bespoke tailors.

The Alexander McQueen tailor had some extravagant suit materials and styles. 

The showroom gallery is typically up above, and the bottom of the building is where all the tailoring would be done.

 The quality of these time pieces is unparalleled. As shown in these pictures, the stitches are customly hand-sewn to perfection.

 Each suit is custom sewn and personally fitted to ones build and structure. The time, and delicacy gives these suits a large price tag and puts the gentlemen that can afford them in a class of their own.

Here is an example of some visual merchandising with an antique telescope reaching out to an educated gentleman with astronomic or geographic hobbies. This gentleman would represent a very high class person in financial gain and or social recognition.

After I finished all my classes, and submitted the last of my essays I could finally take a deep breath and continue to my study abroad experience. I was headed to Israel to visit my girlfriend who is also enrolled in a study abroad program fromm Drexel. I am visiting her, and her family will be there the same week. We're set to see many historical sites, and learn a lot of history about the State of Israel.

I got to Heathrow about  4 hours ahead of my flight and to the El Al check-In. I got searched for the first time by security. They looked through my entire luggage and even my laptop. They even asked me about the contents of my laptop, went through my cell phone, and my wallet, I was speechless. I wasn’t allowed to bring a carry-on bag; I was only allowed my glasses cases and a book to read in a plastic bag that I was given.  I wasn’t even allowed to bring iPod headphones! I was personally escorted from the El Al luggage check – In all the way to the security clearance at the gate, only until everyone else got on the plane was I allowed my passports or my boarding pass. Security was very intense but safety is their number one priority, especially in a time of tension with Gaza.

Wales Adventure :London, UK

London, UK
October 18-25, 2012

 Friday afternoon, four of my flatmmates and I went to Wales for the weekend on a retreat set up by the Student Life Center of FIE. The weekend get away was open to the whole study abroad student body, and 50 kids signed up to go on the trip. I was so excited to go to Wales, leave England and to see some country. I was later, even more excited slowly realizing how many of my good friends also signed up for the trip and how we'd grown closer over the past weeks abroad. We all met up at King's Cross Station to catch our first leg of the journey which was a four hour train ride to Swanwick Station. We had to transfer to another train line going further into Wales along the coast. The second train ride was two hours long, and we arrived during a hailstorm! We all stored our bags in a trailer behind a group of buses which belonged to the hosts that the program had sent for us. We arrived at our place we would call home for the weekend, were assigned rooms, and ate dinner. This is the first view I had in the morning.  

Wales - Preseli Ventures

We started our morning at 7:45 with a traditional Welsh breakfast of meat, eggs, beans, bread, and jam. Different pre-sorted groups were assembled at different locations on the property to get ready for the activities for the day. The group I was put into was set to go on a hike along the Welsh Coastline back to the lodge. One of our hosts drove a group of us guys out to the start of our seven mile hike.

 We were filled with energy at the start of the day and were excited to explore Wales. These are two of my good friends Evan and Chris on our hike.

 The views along the coast were beautiful, and the weather was so refreshing in contrast to the cramped London atmosphere.

 Through out our hike we were along side residential homes that were set into the hillside with a 270 degree coastal view.

This is Chris and Evan along a bridge during the hike.

 Roaming hills met with the crashing coastline.

 The trail of the hike weaved through cow fields and sheep fields for miles.

 The Welsh coastline is beautiful yet so treacherous for boats, or wandering cattle.

 These are local Welsh Cattle.

This is a scenic landscape of the Welsh country side. The ruins of a structure are slowly being overtaken by the hillside.  

This hike was surreal, and was the perfect weather for an adventure through the Coastal hillside of Wales.

The sun came out and lit up the rolling hills.

The other native livestock besides cattle, were sheep, and plenty of them!

Every where I looked, I swear it could have been on a postcard, like here where natural erosion has created the tunnel through the coastline in the ocean.

This is the remains of a Welsh fortess being overtaken by vines and undergrowth in the hillside.

This is a group from our trip coasteering. Coasteering was gearing up in a wetsuit, gloves, and a helmet, and then strategically scaling rocks in the ocean, and successfully jumping off them back into the ocean.   

Coasteering was my second activity for the day that was going to take place after hike. After I got back from the scenic hike, lunch was waiting for us, and we then quickly got ready to go coasteering ourselves in the ocean. It was the first time I wore a full wet suit with boots, a vest, shorts, a hood, gloves, and a helmet. It was an exhilarating experience in the water to be at the tides mercy and scaling rocks. We moved up the rocks to jump from cliffs that were 25-30 feet into the ocean below. Coasteering was such a rush and one of the best experiences of the trip. The adventure guides are a bunch of fun and are really fun guys. 

After coasteering, we headed back to the lodge for dinner and relaxation before our last day in Wales with our third activity. Tomorrow was going to be a blast because I was pumped for surfing!
I don't have any pictures because I was in the water but it was so fun. I never realized how strenuous the ocean, and the repetitious actions were to actually catch a wave were. Surfing would definitely be a fun hobby to pick up in the future.